Raw lithium exports banned in Zimbabwe as demand and prices soar

Zimbabwe is one of the top 10 lithium producers but currently produces only a fraction of the worldwide total. (Image courtesy of Prospect Resources | Investor Presentation at Mining Indaba, Feb. 2018. )

Zimbabwe has banned the export of unprocessed raw lithium with immediate effect as part of efforts to have the key raw material in electric-vehicle batteries processed locally.

“No lithium bearing ores, or unbeneficiated lithium whatsoever, shall be exported from Zimbabwe to another country” without written permission, an order issued by Mines Minister Winston Chitando states.

Mining companies that are building processing plants will be excluded from the directive, Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura said by phone on Tuesday.

Lithium has been on a tear, surging more than 1,100% to a record in the past two years, as supply has struggled to keep up with rampant demand. Rio Tinto Group predicts half of all car sales could be EVs by 2030, up from 9% last year, and mining companies have been scouring the world for opportunities to bring on new supplies.

Chengxin Lithium Group Co. and Sinomine Resource Group Co. are setting up a joint venture to explore for the metal in Zimbabwe, while Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd. plans to invest $300 million to develop its Arcadia lithium mine.

“We have done this in good faith for the growth of industry,” Kambamura said. “If we continue exporting raw lithium we will go nowhere. We want to see lithium batteries being developed in the country.”

In July, the southern African country announced plans to introduce royalties on lithium producers from next month and banned the export of unpolished granite.

(By Godfrey Marawanyika and Ray Ndlovu)


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