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US$130m lithium mine sets Zim on growth path


President Mnangagwa yesterday presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for a new US$130 million lithium mine in Buhera district set to produce 300 000 tonnes of the mineral a year and employ more than 900 Zimbabweans.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, the President went on to address thousands of Zanu PF supporters gathered at Mkwase Primary School in the district.

The Sabi Star Mine is being spearheaded by Max Mind (Zimbabwe) Private Limited, and President Mnangagwa said the new mine will set the country on an irreversible path of economic growth and development when it commences operations next year.

Max Mind has so far injected more than US$22 million, and by July next year will have sunk another $108 million into the mine, boosting mining output, creating jobs, growing exports and feeding the Mining-to-Energy Park in Mapinga.

Sabi Star Mine has 55 mining claims straddling 3 800 hectares.

President Mnangagwa said the acquisition by Maxi Mind (Zimbabwe) of the Sabi Star lithium claims in September 2021 was the first in a series of deals by investors from China and the United Kingdom.

“The investment of about US$130 million by Maxi Mind (Zimbabwe) is most welcome and will go a long way towards our quest to establish vibrant lithium mining and value chain industries in our country,” said the President.

“This project among others will give further impetus to the overall modernisation, industrialisation and growth of our economy. Government invites more investors to take up opportunities that abound in the exploration, extraction and beneficiation of our gold, diamonds, lithium, chrome, our platinum group of metals, our nickel, iron, coal and methane gas among others.”

President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe remains open for business and chronicled how in September this year, Government and EagleCanion International Group signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of a Mining-to-Energy Park in Mapinga, worth US$13 billion.

The energy park involves the construction of a pair of 300 megawatt power stations, a coking plant, granite processing plant, nickel-chromium alloys smelter, nickel sulphate plant, lithium salt plant as well as value addition plants to produce batteries, solar panels and other products.

“It is pleasing that Maxi Mind (Zimbabwe) plans to set up a unique battery grade lithium plant in Mapinga. This mining project will therefore directly feed into the Mines to Energy Park in Mapinga, which will house a lithium processing plant, marking the inception of a lithium ion battery value chain in Zimbabwe and the region.

“The plant is set to see the company contributing over US$500 million in earnings annually towards the realisation of the US$12 billion mining sector economy by 2030. This single plant in Buhera, in two years’ time, will be earning about US$2 billion,” President Mnangagwa said.

The Sabi Star lithium mining project is expected to generate employment opportunities for over 300 local employees during the first phase, gradually increasing to 900 employees in addition to numerous indirect jobs during the next phase of development.

Already, the company has employed more than 600 people and the majority are from Buhera.

“It is my expectation that international experts in this project will train and transfer knowledge and skills to our local people. As we grow our mining sector in line with targets set in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), local beneficiation in the mining sector is now urgent and paramount in our programmes,” said President Mnangagwa.

He said it was high time local communities and the economy as a whole benefit from their God-given resources.

“Over the years the locals have been unknowingly dwelling above lithium. Now there it is Chief Nyashanu in your area. Lithium is going to transform your area. All companies operating in the sector must submit their value addition plans. The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development must ensure strict adherence to this requirement. There is therefore a need for constant engagement between the industry and Government so that we are all moving in the same direction with a shared vision.”

President Mnangagwa said companies such as Maxi Mind will be supported in their efforts to increase production and productivity as well as the levels of mineral beneficiation and value addition.

Sabi Star Mine plans to realise a target of processing 300 000 tonnes of ore to give between 800 and 1000 tonnes of lithium concentrate per day and Government has committed to facilitating the requisite processes to make this a reality.

President Mnangagwa said the mine should abide by the bio-physical environment, corporate and social responsibility frameworks to sustainably improve the life and social infrastructure of the surrounding communities.

About 40 families have been affected by the mining operations, and have been relocated.

The mining company built 22 houses at Murambinda, 17 more in the adjacent villages, and one house in Mberengwa, where the affected family opted to be relocated, at a cost of US$1.2 million.

The affected families got a monetary compensation of US$1,900 upon taking occupation of their new houses, and will get US$150 a month for six months.

“I am so happy that before the company has started making money here, they have already begun improving the infrastructure in this area. They have upgraded the 30km earth road from the main road to this mine. They have built state-of-the-art homes for families relocated from the mining area. Some have solar boreholes at their homesteads,” said President Mnangagwa.

“I am also told they are in the process of building a clinic for the people around this area. They have also told me that they will support primary and secondary schools in this area in upgrading facilities in these schools. That is commendable. Such programmes should equally help local communities in various ways and trigger economic activities in the local and provincial economy.”

The President said gone are the days when communities merely bore the brunt and endured the sorry state of environmental degradation as a result of mining activities.

“I know some areas here in Manicaland suffered as a result of mining which has not given back to the community which we are also addressing.

“So let us all be responsible corporate citizens and guarantee a holistic development that leaves no one and no place behind. Additionally, I exhort the private sector among other stakeholders to work closely with Government, ministries, departments and Government agencies for the continuous improvement in our business operating environment.

“Unity is integral as we face the ever evolving challenges and opportunities in our country. As I have said in the past, under the Second Republic, there is no ‘them’ and there is no ‘us’, we are all one. We all have the collective responsibility to build the Zimbabwe we all want step by step, brick by brick and stone upon stone,” said President Mnangagwa.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said the 300 000 tonnes will be value-added in the processing of lithium carbonate at the Mine to Energy Park in Mapinga.

“The impact is quite phenomenal in terms of the local community and from a US$12 billion perspective and from a 2030 Vision perspective. This project did not just happen; it is a result of the ‘Zimbabwe is open for Business’ mantra. It is a result of the 2030 vision set by His Excellency, the enabling policies which have resulted in this project taking place,” said Minister Chitando.

Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Nokuthula Matsikenyere said the mine will boost the province’s economy given its multiplier effects in exports, new jobs and contribution to fiscal revenues.

Max Mind (Zimbabwe) project manager Mr Elfas Mugova said the mine will produce output of US$200 million a year.

Mr Mugova said Sabi Star Mine will produce one million tonnes of raw ore per year, which would translate to 300 000 tonnes of lithium concentrate and 300 tonnes of tantalite rabium concentrate, a different mineral, each year.

In achieving these levels of production, Max Mind would push economic growth, employment of youths, and pay taxes and royalties. Fully developed Sabi Star would employ between 500 and 900 staff, 80 percent of whom will be from the local community of Buhera and its surroundings. The expected revenue from this operation will be at least US$1 billion annually based on the current market price of lithium concentrate,” said Mr Mugova.

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