Marula Mining, a UK mining company focused on Africa, is entering the Zimbabwean market after identifying opportunities in copper and lithium.
The company has established a Zimbabwean arm, Muchai Mining, which will lead Marula’s plans to secure near-term and advanced lithium and copper opportunities in Zimbabwe, which is looking to attract investment in battery metals. Marula will hold 80% of Muchai’s shares, with local company Gondo Mineral Resources holding the remaining 20%.
Marula decided to open an office in Zimbabwe after completing “an extensive due diligence” on potential projects in Zimbabwe, says CEO Jason Brewer.
“Our team has been on the ground since the beginning of the year, and we are excited about the potential that Zimbabwe offers the company and the industry,” Brewer says.
Marula, which is pioneering lithium in South Africa, joins UK companies such as Premier African Minerals and Red Rock that are have invested in Zimbabwe’s lithium prospects recently. Larger Chinese companies Huayou Cobalt, Chengxin and Sinomine, are already advanced in building new mines and lithium processing facilities in the country.
Copper, also in demand globally, is also a draw for Marula, Brewer says.
“Additionally, Zimbabwe is home to over 70 known copper deposits, and copper mining has experienced a revival in the country, coinciding with an increase in copper prices,” Brewer adds.
Marula’s other interests in Africa include the Blesberg Lithium and Tantalum Mine in South Africa, Nkombwa Hill Project in Zambia, as well as Tanzania’s Kinusi Copper mine, Bagamoyo Graphite Project and the Nyorinyori Graphite Project. The company has recently announced its first shipment of lithium from Blesberg is under a lithium prepayment facility to a South African subsidiary of global commodity group Traxys.
Zimbabwe copper ambitions
Zimbabwe’s last major copper operation, Mhangura, shut down in 2000 as global copper prices collapsed. Zimbabwe has launched a plan, called the Greater Chinhoyi Copper Development programme, to revive six copper assets run by the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
In 2021, ZMDC reached an agreement with China’s Zhi Jui Mining Resource to start processing dumps at Mhangura. Apart from Mhangura, ZMDC’s other copper operations are Alaska and Sanyati. Both are idle, despite attempts to restore the Alaska refinery and repurpose it for chrome.
Bringing all ZMDC copper operations back to full production – including underground mining, a new refinery and smelter – would need an investment of as much as US$500 million, according to a ZMDC estimate.