Home » Chinese Ambassador Highlights Zimbabwe’s Challenges in Producing Battery-Grade Lithium

Chinese Ambassador Highlights Zimbabwe’s Challenges in Producing Battery-Grade Lithium

by Oluwatosin Alabi

Zimbabwe’s substantial lithium reserves, among the world’s largest, have yet to translate into production capabilities for battery-grade lithium. Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhou Ding, emphasized this during a recent breakfast meeting in Harare.

Ambassador Zhou underscored Zimbabwe’s challenges in tapping the full potential of its lithium sector. While China firmly backs Zimbabwe’s vision of augmenting the mining industry, especially its lithium division, the process is intricate. Developing battery-grade lithium involves overcoming hurdles such as the reliance on high-cost imports for essential raw materials like sulphuric acid. Furthermore, lithium processing demands substantial energy, making the lack of power and escalating electricity prices additional stumbling blocks. Additionally, the looming competition from neighboring nations like South Africa and Zambia necessitates thorough market research before increasing investments in Zimbabwe’s energy mining.

Historically, Zimbabwe’s primary focus has been on extracting petalite, used in ceramics, aluminium smelting, and glass manufacturing. This extraction has been carried out through Bikita Minerals since the 1950s. In a shift from tradition, Chinese mining entities like Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group, and Chengxin Lithium Group have recently poured investments totaling $678 million to acquire Zimbabwean lithium mines and projects.

On a related note, the transport sector’s challenges in Zimbabwe were spotlighted by Suston Muzenda, Chief Director of the Transport Ministry. Muzenda pinpointed issues like restricted access and exorbitant operational expenses. Advocating for e-mobility as a potential panacea, he stated that electric vehicle adoption and a sustainable transportation ecosystem are vital.

In a promising development, the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) in Zimbabwe revealed advancements in producing lithium batteries suitable for passenger cars. This innovation could significantly boost Zimbabwe’s role in clean energy technologies. Dr. Quinton Kanhukamwe, the university’s Vice Chancellor, announced intentions to commence commercial production of these batteries by 2024.

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