From Nehanda Radio By Farayi Machamire
Bikita Minerals is currently assaying rock samples for high-grade lithium concentrate (spodumene) reserves, which, if confirmed, will help turn the mine into a big money spinner.
The world’s sole commercial petalite miner, which started off as Bikita Tinfields in 1910 before it was consolidated into a mining lease exploring petalite, currently majors in the production of petalite and tantalite.
The mine’s petalite, which contains about 4, 5 percent lithium, is currently being used for making ceramics.
However, with spodumene, which contains about eight percent lithium, the mine will be a game-changer on the world lithium market producing lithium carbonate for tens of millions of batteries for electric cars.
It is estimated that within eight years, electric cars will account for 10 percent of all the world’s vehicles.
“There are no less than seven minerals here at Bikita Minerals but of those, there are only two that are of economic importance to us — petalite and…spodumene,” Bikita Minerals chief executive Grant Hudson said during a tour last week.
“Our petalite that we mine here is used for making glass wear and ceramics. But what the world is excited about is spodumene.
The biggest spodumene mines in the world are in Australia and they make this (Bikita Minerals) look like a baby. But we believe we have spodumene here and we have been drilling up a spodumene resource here.
“We are very excited that we are starting this journey. I hope by this time next year we will be taking you through our spodumene production process,” Hudson said.
Bikita Minerals exploration to establish whether it will be economically viable to mine the spodumene comes as Mines minister Winston Chitando recently told a mining indaba that Zimbabwe had the potential to account for 20 percent of global lithium demand.
“We believe we have the potential to actually account for 20 percent of global demand when all known lithium resources are being exploited,” he said, adding that he expects Zimbabwe to produce ten percent of the world’s lithium in four years.
Meanwhile, Bikita Minerals said it has so far spent over $4 million on plant upgrade and geological exploration in a bid to double output.
“We have so far spent about $4 million on the acquisition of new processing plants for both petalite and tantalite. We are looking to double petalite production to 80 000 tonnes if all goes well this year. We have installed a new processing plant for tantalite as we intensify our efforts to boost production,” Hudson said.
Chief Marozva hailed the contribution of Bikita Minerals saying before the current executive that came into place in 2014 previous leaders of the mine had turned a blind eye on the community.
“There is nothing secret about Bikita Minerals,” Hudson added.
“This is not a case of us having to negotiate with the community. This is very much a case of the community and us working as one.”