Zimbabwe earlier this week stopped the export of raw lithium from its mines and said that it wants cash in on the value addition and also stop losing billions to foreign companies via mineral proceeds, news agencies reported.
On December 20, Zimbabwe’s ministry of Mines and Mining Development in a directive published under the nation’s Base Minerals Export Control Act said that the move was made to “ensure that the vision of the president to see the country becoming an upper-middle income economy has been realized.”
Winston Chitando following the export ban said: “No lithium-bearing ores, or unbeneficiated lithium whatsoever, shall be exported from Zimbabwe to another country except under the written permit of the minister.”
The directive excludes mining companies which build processing plants, deputy mining minister Polite Kambamura said. He told Quartz that if Zimbabwe continues to export raw lithium then it shall go nowhere.
According to Reuters, Chinese mining giants and lithium ion battery material manufacturers Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group and Chengxin Lithium Group acquired several lithium mine and have bagged projects worth a combined $678 million in Zimbabwe and are at various stages of developing mines and processing plants. These companies are exempted from the ban.
“We want to see lithium batteries being developed in the country. We have done this in good faith for the growth of industry,” Kambamura was quoted as saying by Quartz.
The Zimbabwean government claims that it lost $1.8 billion in mineral revenues due to smuggling and externalization to South Africa and the UAE.
Gold and lithium are amongst the most smuggled minerals with gold being the most smuggled.
Zimbabwe is on track to become one of the world’s largest lithium exporters and the government expects that it will meet 20% of the world’s total demand for lithium when it fully exploits all known lithium resources.
At least 60% of Zimbabwe’s exports are mostly minerals and the mining sector makes up for 16% of its GDP, the London School of Economics data from 2021, accessed by news outlet Quartz shows.
Zimbabwe is currently facing large amounts of debt and its economic condition is dire.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the ban targets hordes of artisanal miners who after being attracted to the high demand of lithium started capturing abandoned mines to dig for lithium-bearing rocks.
Lithium is the new gold as the world shifts to clean energy, especially in the field of electric vehicles. It is a necessary metal needed to build high energy-density rechargeable batteries.
These lithium-ion batteries will dominate the industry as they are cheaper.
The demand for lithium has increased and compared to 2021 its price has soared by more than 180%.
The African nation lost $12 billion through illegal trade involving multinational companies from richer nations.
These funds were more than enough to clear Harare’s foreign debt of $13.7 billion.
Western companies have been involved in corruption and have exploited Africa’s lithium mines.
If the Arcadia Lithium Mine, located 308 kms south of the capital Harare, is deployed then the annual production will reach 2.5 million tons, bringing in $3 billion in exports.