Kuda Bwititi, Zimpapers Elections Desk
ORDINARILY, it takes about eight or so years for a large-scale mining project to grow from resource definition to production.
This is because developing a state-of-the-art mine involves several time-consuming processes including feasibility studies, exploration, geological surveys, sourcing for capital and mine construction, until exploitation of the resource commences.
However, this was not the case with the Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe (PLZ) lithium project in Goromonzi, which was developed in a record-breaking nine months, in what was a powerful statement of the Second Republic’s commitment to rapid economic transformation.
Officially commissioned by President Mnangagwa on Wednesday, the lithium venture is breaking new ground on several fronts, as it has become one of the signature projects set to drive Zimbabwe’s economic boom.
Owned by Chinese company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, the US$300 million plant is one of the biggest lithium processing plants in the world.
In fact, PLZ says the project is the “largest single lithium concentrate production line in the world”.
It has a capacity to process 4,5 million tonnes of hard rock lithium into concentrate for export per year.
As a start, PLZ will commence with processing around 450 000 tonnes of lithium concentrate every year.
Speaking at the commissioning of the PLZ processing plant on Wednesday, President Mnangagwa said Government is inspired by the Chinese work ethic, as it implements various initiatives to uplift the lives of Zimbabweans.
“I urge you all to adopt the great Chinese work ethic,” said the President.
“I want to particularly congratulate Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe for completing the construction of the plant in record time. This resonates with the rapid results culture of my Government and speaks volumes about the work ethic of this entity,” he said.
In his remarks, PLZ chairperson, Mr George Fang, said he is confident that his company has built “one of the world’s most sophisticated” lithium plants.
He paid tribute to President Mnangagwa for creating an investor-friendly environment.
“We thank the Government for the facilitation for us to find a home in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is our home and indeed Zimbabwe is Open for Business. We are delighted that our modest investment will help Zimbabwe achieve its vision to become an upper-middle-class economy,” he said.
According to Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, developments that have taken place at the PLZ have been nothing but astounding.
Minister Chitando is a doyen of the sector, as he served as managing director for giant platinum company Mimosa for several years, so he is a man who knows his onions.
“Yes the lithium geology has been there for years, but it was a project that was conceptualised, drilled, bankable feasibility study done, capital raised and project construction taking place in nine months. This was record breaking,” he said.
“This is a typical success of Zimbabwe’s open for business campaign,” said Minister Chitando.
Lithium is one of the most sought after minerals in the world at the moment as it is used in manufacturing car batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). The world is witnessing an EV’s boom as non-combustion engine vehicles help to promote a cleaner environment by reducing global carbon emissions that have contributed to the scourge of climate change.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Zhou Ding said PLZ is playing a fundamental role in the new energy industry.
“As a global leader in the production of lithium battery materials, Huayou Cobalt Company, which acquired Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe and Arcadia lithium mine, is playing a pivotal role in the new energy industry.
“By investing hundreds of millions of USD and starting production within nine months, it has created another example of ‘China speed’, as well as the largest single lithium concentrate production line in the world.”
While the PLZ will doubtlessly contribute to the US$12 billion mining milestone set under the National Development Strategy, what has been exciting to see are positive developments that have been made to the Goromonzi community in a short space of time.
So far, more than 3 000 jobs have been created, with locals being given priority in recruitment.
PLZ’s comprehensive corporate social responsibility initiatives have also seen several programmes that will leave a lasting legacy in the area including improved access to health, rehabilitation of schools, skills transfer and sport development.
Also, the Goromonzi-Mutare Road has been rehabilitated while the Goromonzi-Arcadia Road has been widened.
Furthermore, PLZ has supported the Zimbabwe Republic Police by constructing a new police base in the area.
One of the local entrepreneurs Mr Ainos Ngadya, who has been contracted to work with PLZ said:
“Our company is called New Sahara Ventures, we are a power infrastructure and renewable energy engineering firm focusing on engineering and construction of high voltage power lines, substations and power plants
“For PLZ we implemented more than 10KM of 132KV power lines including power reticulation for the mine, within a record four-month period.
“The key benefit is we now have local capacity to execute high power infrastructure projects for critical projects across the country.
“We have also been able to create new jobs because of this project.”
A small trader from Ruwa, Mr Luke Bhobho said developments in the area have cascaded down to his hometown, which is next to Goromonzi.
“I am a vendor, trading in various items. I now have a huge customer base in Goromonzi due to the lithium project. Lithium has changed the lives of many of my friends who managed to get jobs at the company.
“It is wonderful when development takes place so rapidly.”