BUSINESS WRITER 11 July 2017
HARARE – Zimbabwe is poised to become one of the largest lithium producers
in the world due to increased global demand.
The investment-starved country produced 900 tonnes of lithium in 2015,
with top producer Australia accounting for 13 400 tonnes, Chile for 12 900
tonnes, Argentina for 3 800 tonnes and China for 2 200 tonnes.
However, anticipated global demand for lithium – popularly known as “white
petroleum” – may increase production of the mineral that powers
rechargeable devices, including telephones and automobiles.
American automaker Tesla’s plans to mass-produce its Model 3
battery-powered car have stoked worldwide demand. Tesla estimated its
production target for electric cars alone – 500 000 vehicles by 2020 –
could require as much lithium as is already currently being produced.
Zimbabwe, the fifth largest producer of lithium on the planet, could
increase its share of a growing market.
Currently, minerals exploration and mining company Premier African
Minerals is looking for partners to expand its lithium and tantalum mining
operations at its Zulu project, in Zimbabwe.
Additionally, Australasia-based publicly listed mining company Prospect
Resources has also secured diamond-drilling services for its recently
acquired Arcadia lithium project, also in Zimbabwe, and has declared a
maiden resource estimate of 36 million tonnes at 1,17 percent lithium
Prospect Resources chairperson Hugh Warner said the company’s recently
completed prefeasibility study results have backed the company’s aim to
become a significant producer of quality spodumene, petalite and tantalite
concentrates in the near-term through development of the Arcadia project.
Based on maiden ore reserves of 15,8 metric tonnes, at 1,34 percent
lithium oxide and 125 ppm Ta2O5, the project will be developed into a 1,2
metric tonnes per annum mining and processing operation with a mine-life
of 15 years.
“In the space of less than a year, we have developed Arcadia to a stage
where we have defined a globally significant deposit containing
highly-sought after lithium products in spodumene and petalite,” Warner
“We are now confident that Arcadia will have the ability to produce
battery grade lithium, glass and ceramic grade lithium and tantalite
products to the market by late-2018. Following government environmental
and financial approvals and coupled with the excellent results of this
PFS, the development of Arcadia can now be fast-tracked,” he added
Prospect Resources intends to sign offtake agreements and secure funding
to develop the asset.
According to the prefeasibility study, the Arcadia project is expected to
have an internal rate of return of 39 percent, and a pre-tax net present
value of $139 million, with projected mine revenues of $2 billion over the
life of the project.
Furthermore, the company is evaluating the establishment of a lithium
carbonate and hydroxide chemical plant at the Arcadia project, with
another ongoing prefeasibility study expected to be completed in the third
quarter this year.