‘Waiting for a signature’: UK miner looks elsewhere after Zimbabwe red tape frustration

Premier's RHA plant: The company seeks to speed up lithium asset development

A year ago, Premier African Minerals were buzzing about developing their new investment in Zimbabwe. A year later, after a string of false promises, the UK-listed small-cap miner is voicing its frustrations and looking elsewhere.

Premier is invested in the Zulu Lithium and RHA Tungsten projects in Fort Rixon. To bring the projects to production, the company needs an exclusive prospecting order (EPO), a permit to explore and develop the assets. However, the company says it is facing bureaucracy in the Zimbabwe government.

“Dependency of exploration activities based exclusively in Zimbabwe where country risk and delay deny the opportunity to add value, is clearly flawed yet exploration remains the best opportunity for substantial value generation and recovery in our Company,” says CEO George Roach, an industry veteran.

Roach aired his frustration at how government officials have delayed Premier’s application, reflecting sentiment of many other miners who have tried to invest in Zimbabwean resources. A single signature, Roach says, now stands between his company and the start of exploration and development of the mines.

Says Roach: “During 2019, Premier met frequently with the Mining Affairs board, the Permanent Secretary and the Hon. Minister of Mines; Premier attended to all questions, explanations, objections and has been assured repeatedly that the process to grant the EPO is at finality and requires only signature. To date, the EPO still requires only signature.”

The Fort Rixon site has an estimated 20.1 million tonnes resource base grading 1.06 percent lithium oxide.

Beyond RHA and Zulu, Premier in June announced that it had bought a portfolio of hard-rock lithium assets from Australian firm Li3. The 1500 hectares of licences are located within the Mutare Greenstone Belt, near the Mozambican border.

Premier recently bought into MN Holdings Otjozondu, a mine in Namibia, and Roach sees that asset now as “a significant first step in the midst of the ongoing and very disappointing delays in Zimbabwe”.

According to Roach: “This experience in Zimbabwe only underlines my comments above and the need to acquire and be in control of a cash generative asset/s and country risk mitigating exploration properties.”