Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lithium boom for Zim

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Tawanda Musarurwa
Lithium appears to have suddenly become the new buzz word in Zimbabwe’s mining sector and beyond over the past few years with a number of foreign companies already making significant progress in projects.
There is already a well-established market for lithium mineral concentrate, in technical applications such as glass and ceramics, but in recent years there has also been substantial growth in the market for lithium chemicals used in re-chargeable batteries.
Analysts say this growth should even be faster with the expected rise in manufacture and popularity of electric vehicles, grid battery storage and personal electronic devices.
And with Zimbabwe having proven lithium resources, there is much to be excited about.
Recently, London-listed mining group Premier African Minerals Limited announced that it had found more high-grade intersections through its latest step-out drilling at the Zulu lithium deposit in Zimbabwe.
The Zulu Lithium and tantalum project is located 80 kilometres from Bulawayo, and is generally regarded as potentially the largest undeveloped lithium bearing pegmatite in the country.
The drill results showed two holes 250m east of the Main Zone intersected multiple pegmatites with average grades of 1, 17 percent and 1, 04 percent lithium oxide.
Premier chief executive George Roach said the results reaffirmed the size potential of the Zulu deposit.
“These drilling results reaffirm the size potential of the Zulu deposit. The results also continue to return high ratios of spodumene to petalite and confirm a core of high-grade mineralisation that is strongly supportive of the high internal rates of return and very rapid payback predicted in our recently released scoping study,” said Mr Roach.
“The next drilling programme will seek to expand the wide intersections and further define the high-grade core.
“This is expected to result in an elevated level of confidence in the resource and the ability to move rapidly to a definitive study based on a mining plan optimised to take advantage of this tightly confined and relatively shallow high-grade core of spodumene.
He added that Premier is currently looking for a partner for the project. (Last year, the company said it would not sell the project).
“Meanwhile, activity at a corporate level has been extremely busy as we continue to engage with potential new stakeholders and partners to advance the Zulu Lithium Project and have recently seen a significant increase in interest from foreign investors in the Zimbabwean mining sector.”
While Premier is still actively looking for a partner, other lithium projects in the country already seem to be a step ahead.
Earlier this week, Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Chimata Gold Corp announced that it had signed a “binding letter of intent” with Mauritian-headquartered Zimbabwe Lithium Company Limited, with a view to owning it.
The Mauritius-based Zimbabwe Lithium mining company recently signed a joint-venture agreement with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) with respect to the grant for exclusive development rights for the Kamativi lithium tailings deposit at the Kamativi Mine, which is located in the Matabeleland North Province.
Chimata Gold is a Canadian mineral exploration company that is focused on the acquisition and exploration of properties of merit with a focus on gold and other precious metals.
The presently mothballed Kamativi Tin Mine, is located approximately 185 kilometres south-east of Victoria Falls, about 84 km by tar road east of Hwange or 310 km northwest of Bulawayo. It stopped operations in 1994 after the price of tin tumbled in 1985.
Zimbabwe Lithium managing director Mr John McTaggart commented on the development.
“We are very pleased to have on board a partner in Chimata. In particular, during this very important and dynamic transition period in Zimbabwe, we would like to thank the Government of Zimbabwe, the Honourable Minister of Mines and Mining Development, our partners at ZMDC and all stakeholders that have worked with us to bring this project to its current stage.”
And a Chinese mining giant is eyeing perhaps Zimbabwe and Africa’s largest current known lithium project – the Arcadia Lithium Project.
ASX-listed Prospect Resources recently announced that Chinese mining firm Sinomine Resources Exploration had requested them for more time to negotiate for the acquisition of the Arcadia Lithium project in Zimbabwe.
The Acardia Lithium project is located approximately 38 kilometres east of Harare, near the long established Acturus Mine.
Last year, Prospect Resources revealed the signing of a conditional placement and framework agreement with Sinomine.
Under the terms of this agreement, Sinomine was required to subscribe for A$10 000 000 worth of Prospect shares by February 7, 2018.
However, on February 6, Prospect received a written request from Sinomine to extend the period for completion of the placement to allow for further time to discuss the terms of a Definitive Build and Transfer Contract and the Definitive Facility Agreement that would see Sinomine constructing and financing Prospect’s Lithium Mine and Plant at the Arcadia Lithium Project to full production.
The agreement also included the potential acquisition of the Arcadia lithium project, via either an offer to acquire a minimum of 51 percent of Prospect Resources or an offer to purchase 100 percent of the Arcadia lithium project directly.
Said Prospect Resources in an ASX notice:
“The directors have considered Sinomine’s request and are determined that it is in the best interests of shareholders to agree to extend the period to complete the placement to 31 March 2018 and participate in such discussions as they may result in a better outcome for Prospect’s shareholders.
“The Placement is subject to obtaining shareholder approval.”
The Arcadia Lithium project occupies an area of more than 14 km2 of granted mining rights and consists of several historical lithium and beryl workings within an existing agricultural area. The Project is located close to major highways and railheads, with the Beira Port being less than 450 km away by rail or road transport.
Earlier in January, Prospect said it had made significant progress in generating battery grade (99,5 percent Li2CO3) lithium carbonate from Arcadia’s petalite concentrate feedstock.
It’s all looking good for Zimbabwe in respect of lithium projects on the ground. And the broad lithium market is looking bright too.
Experts say demand for lithium will be driven by rapid expansion in the lithium-ion battery industry as world demand for hybrid and electric vehicles, energy storage systems, and high-drain portable electronics continues to grow.
Global demand for lithium metal is projected to rise 8, 9 percent per this year going forward.