Another Aussie firm eyes Zim lithium

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ASX firm to acquire 70pc in Mbeta project

Project area holds huge potential for lithium

Business Writer
Only weeks after Zimbabwean firms sealed two multi-billion dollar lithium projects, an Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed resources firm has revealed plans to buy shares in a virgin lithium asset in Southern Zimbabwe.

While the world ran on oil in the twentieth century, the world is unanimous that the future belongs to a new mineral, lithium, and world fifth largest producer, Zimbabwe stands to benefit immensely from its developing projects.

ASX junior resources explorer, Latitude Consolidated yesterday announced that it had signed binding agreements to acquire 70 percent stake in the Mbeta Lithium project in Gwanda, Southern Zimbabwe.

This comes only a few weeks after Government sealed a $4,2 billion deal with Cypriot firm Karo Resources to develop a lithium project in Mhondoro Ngezi area along the mineral and platinum rich Great Dyke.

A unit of Mauritius based Zimbabwe Lithium Company, is also set to invest about $1,4 billion in a tailings dumps treatment project at Kamativi Mine, a deal signed just weeks before Karo’s.

Another (ASX)-listed Zimbabwean firm, Prospect Resources which is at an advanced stage of developing an integrated lithium chemical plant at Arcadia, recently said it was looking at beneficiating spodumene.

As lithium continues to gain global prominence on growing demand due to increased usage in lithium batteries, used in electrical vehicles, Latitude has joined the frenzied scramble for Zimbabwe’s lithium assets.

Mbeta comprises 13 mineral claims with a combined area of 18 square kilometres and lies in gently-undulating, lightly cropped terrain with good access from Gwanda via tarmac and all-weather gravel roads.

The mineralised pegmatites and historic workings extend over 700 metres. The Australian firm said the district has seen minor historical lithium and tantalum mining and the project area is considered underexplored, yet highly prospective, for lithium and associated elements.

“The historical assays of lepidolite-bearing ore samples include assays ranging from 2,60 percent lithium oxide to 6,20 percent lithium oxide, with an of 4-4,5 percent lithium oxide. It is likely that the results were from selected ore samples, but these early results could be an indication of the lithium potential in the area,” Latitude said in a statement.

As part of the transaction, the group will complete a two-tranche share placement to raise a total of $3,45 million from sophisticated investors – $491,000 upfront and $2,95 million subject to shareholder approval.

Latitude said it continues to assess a number of additional project acquisition opportunities within Africa targeting the battery-metals sector.

A crucial component in battery-storage technology, lithium will be needed in larger and larger quantities, as the world’s fleet of electric vehicles (EV) grows and more and more renewable energy capacity is installed.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar also depend on large lithium batteries to store energy and provide reliable output. In 2016, renewable energy accounted for nearly two-thirds of net new power capacity, adding 165 Gigawatts consumed across the entire worldwide.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates future renewable energy capacity additions will outpace coal, and grow by almost 90 percent from 2017 to 2022.

This means opportunities for growth in the lithium tech and mining sectors could be immense. Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of lithium after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China.

The demand for battery-grade lithium compounds is expected to jump significantly in the next decade in response to the expected growth in demand for the electric vehicles.

Zimbabwe boasts vast deposits of lithium, but production still lags behind other global producers of the mineral; with only one company Bikita Resources currently producing.

The country’s lithium production has averaged 1 000 tonnes a year since 2012, according to Statista, a reputable online statistics, market research and business intelligence portal.

Australia, the world’s largest producer extracted 18 700 tonnes of the commodity last year followed by Chile at 14 100 tonnes, Argentina at 5 500 tonnes and China at 3 000 tonnes.

Zimbabwe is not getting caught flat footed; Government has started working on plans to build lithium testing laboratories in Kwekwe, as the demand for the relatively new mineral skyrockets globally, making it a potential game changer for Zimbabwe’s mining industry and economy.

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