As Bikita Minerals eyes becoming a global kingpin in the production of Lithium spodumene, President Emmerson Mnangagwa beseeched the company to prioritize value addition, beneficiation and investing in Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) for the country to benefit significantly from the lithium at the mine.
China’s Sinomine Resource Group, the owners of Bikita Minerals who early this year acquired the project, will invest US$200 million to build a plant and expand its existing mining operations as they seek to play a significant role in the achievement of the US$0.5 billion lithium industry by 2023.
Speaking at the groundbreaking Ceremony of Bikita Minerals Spodumene project last Friday, the President hinted that the company has the potential to emerge as a key player in the rise and popularity of the battery manufacturing industry. However, he also expressed concern that the company should not benefit alone from global achievement but the community in which it is located should also benefit.
He said that his government has implored the company, to prioritize the Bikita community as it mines in its environment and urged the company to take its workers and environment with great care.
“We have told them that under the second Republic we would want to see that lithium is essential to the growth and development of Zimbabwe’s economy. They told us that after two years the company will be generating US$500 million annually. We will come back here after two years to see what they could have done for the people.
“Companies are challenged to listen to their host communities and address their concerns. Communities must equally appreciate that investors are indispensable partners to the realisation of sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all.
“Mining companies must be good corporate responsible citizens, with Corporate Social, Environmental Social, and Governance aspects being critical components of their entities. Tangible socio-economic advantages and benefits should accrue to societies in which they operate. In undertaking their ventures, companies are challenged to listen to their host communities and address their concerns. Communities must on the other hand, equally appreciate that investors are indispensable partners in the realisation of sustainable development and a higher quality of life,
“For greater harmony and unity of purpose, mechanisms should be developed to improve transparency and accountability so that aspects of the project are understood, while grievances are heard and addressed. “The safety and treatment of employees is also a key component. Mining companies must strive to be model employers by treating and remunerating their workers appropriately,” Mnangagwa said.
In line with the Government’s minerals beneficiation thrust under which the Second Republic has given companies a minimum of two years to add value to minerals to ensure that Zimbabwe exports processed products and earns more from its rich mineral resources. President Mnangagwa said after making profits, mining companies should implement corporate social responsibility programmes toward creating a lasting legacy in their host communities.
“It is most fortunate that Zimbabwe boasts one of the world’s largest hard rock lithium deposits. As such our country is well-positioned to become a centre for research, development, exploitation and manufacturing of green energy and lithium-based solutions in Africa,
“The Bikita Minerals’ Spodumene Project is timely as spodumene is the main lithium-bearing mineral currently being explored and processed around the globe, due to its high lithium content and extensive occurrence
“It is my expectation that the development of the lithium mining sector in Zimbabwe will lead to the growth of value chain linkages in the manufacturing industry.
“I exhort mining companies across the country, including Sinomine Resource Group, to create synergies with the innovation hubs and industrial parks at our institutions of higher learning,” President Mnangagwa said.
According to Mnangagwa Bikita Minerals presents far-reaching possibilities as lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications that include use in the manufacture of heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease lubricants, flux additives for iron, steel and aluminium production, air treatment, as well as lithium batteries, among others.
“I, therefore, urge players in the lithium mining sub-sector to strategically position their business models informed by the fact that lithium demand will continue rising, particularly premised on the growing demand for electric vehicles. To date, this surge in demand has resulted in lithium prices skyrocketing over the past year thereby offering scope for increased investment in the sector,”
“It is my expectation that the development of the lithium mining sector in Zimbabwe will lead to the growth of value chain linkages in the manufacturing industry. This should translate into expanded local production of renewable energy technologies, ceramics, glass, lubricants and polymers, among other products. The investment by Sinomine Resource Group should, thus, not only end in the production of spodumene but should graduate to the production of battery-grade lithium and ultimately lithium-ion battery manufacturing entities,” Mnangagwa concluded.