Bikita Minerals says it has almost doubled its petalite output since Sinomine took over the country’s oldest lithium mine in a US$180 million deal last year.
The company has also signed a US$24 million deal with the Zimbabwe Energy Transmission Distribution Company (ZETDC) to build power transmission infrastructure that is critical to its expansion project at the mine.
Sinomine bought into Bikita last year after a deal with African Metals Management Services and German investor Wilfried Pabst’s Southern African Metals and Minerals, the Mauritius-registered companies that held a combined 74% the mine.
Production of petalite, which is exported as a finished product and used for glass and ceramics, has risen from 36 000 tonnes a year to 60 000 tonnes, Bikita Minerals mine manager David Mwanza said.
Beyond petalite, Bikita is building a processing plant for spodumene, a concentrate that is used for lithium batteries.
“Sinomine has invested US$200 million to build new plants to increase petalite production. They are also constructing a plant to process spodumene rock,” Mwanza said. “The current rate of production is a result of the effort to expand the capacity of the existing plant.”
The company expects to employ over 1000 permanent workers after the completion of the new plants, up from the 360 workers that it had before the acquisition. Currently, including construction workers, the mine has 1800 staff on site.
Bikita-ZESA power deal
To secure power supplies, Bikita has recently reached an agreement with power utility ZETDC for the construction of power transmission infrastructure. Under the deal, Bikita Minerals will fund the construction of a 113km 132-kilovolt power line from the existing Tugwi substation to the planned Bikita Minerals substation. The mine will install substation ancillary services, protection equipment, metering equipment, power network control and telecommunication system. As part of the agreement, Bikita will ensure that the new substation also supplies power beyond the mine, to other areas such as Gonye, Nyika, Chivaka and the Bikita local load.
Bikita will recoup its investment by offsetting charges for future power use, a deal similar to another grid agreement between ZETDC and Tsingshan, which is building a steel plant near Chivhu.
Sinomine is one of several investors that have made a play on Zimbabwean lithium, hoping to take advantage of rising global demand for the metal. Other investors include Huayou Cobalt, which is building a US$300 million plant at Arcadia, and Max Mind Investments, which started a US$130 million project at Sabi Star in Buhera last year. Other names in Zimbabwean lithium are Premier African Minerals, Red Rock and Galileo from the UK, plus Canada’s Jimbata and Ireland’s Arkle Resources.