Lithium plant being set up near Harare. . . Prospect engages global engineering giant DRA . . . firm needs $55m to complete phase 1 of project . . . project set for production in Q2 of 2019

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Golden Sibanda
Australia Stock Exchange (ASX)-listed batteries company, Prospect Resources, says it has appointed global engineering company DRA to provide engineering services and upfront design for its flagship Arcadia Lithium Project located near Harare.

Prospect said the Arcadia lithium project represented a globally significant resource. It intends to build a 1,2 million tonnes per annum lithium processing plant, 38km east of Harare.

President Mnangagwa is expected to officiate at the ground breaking for the project soon.

The development keeps Zimbabwe’s dream of becoming a major player in the multi-billion dollar lithium supply and battery products manufacturing on a positive trajectory.

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

Zimbabwe is already the world’s fifth biggest lithium producer after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China, but has more upside potential given assets currently being developed.

The Arcadia project comes on the back of similar “sweet news” by other investors, including state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which is looking at developing lithium assets in partnership with Canadian firm Jimbata.

The country is expected to generate revenue of $1,4 billion over eight years from processing dumps at Kamativi Mine, Matabeleland North, which was a copper mine, but closed in 1994.

In Kamativi, lithium occurs in a massive outcrop estimated to hold 3,5 million tonnes.

DRA to design, scope project

DRA is a multi-disciplinary global engineering group

DRA is a multi-disciplinary global engineering group that specializes in mining, mineral processing, energy, agriculture, water treatment and infrastructure service provision.

Prospect said on Wednesday the project for which DRA has been appointed begins with engineering planning, design and scope clarification to culminate in a baseline project document.

“Certain long lead times assets have been ordered with additional equipment orders due to be issued imminently,” Prospect said in a statement.

“Site preparations have commenced, including land clearing in preparation for the prestripping to get underway and the tailing dam to be built,” it said.

“The engineering and design portion of the project is valued at approximately R5,3m. The entire project is expected to be completed and in production by the second quarter of 2019.”

The Arcadia project requires an investment of about $55 million for the first phase. It is not yet known how much the project will require for the second phase.

Prospect executive director Harry Greaves said DRA was the perfect partner to work with on the Arcadia Lithium project given the company’s capacity and experience.

“We believe that DRA is the perfect partner for Prospect to align with on the Arcadia Lithium Project. Their broad capabilities, 15-year track record in gold, platinum, diamonds and lithium in Zimbabwe and the team of highly skilled engineer and designers provide invaluable service offering to Prospect Limited,” he said.

Paul Howard, DRA Senior Vice President Origination (EMEA) said a long history of relationship with Prospect’s management made DRA a logical fit for the Arcadia Lithium project.

“It is DRA’s future expectation to assist in battery mineral prospects, which will help develop sustainable battery powered transport solutions and contribute to greener environment,” he said.

Zim next big thing in lithium

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

Bikita Minerals allegedly holds the world’s largest-known deposit of lithium, at over 11 million tonnes.

The other two lithium projects, Zulu and Arcadia are at different levels of development.

Zimbabwe’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.

The mineral also occurs widely in South America, but deposits are contaminated with magnesium.

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