BIKITA, Zimbabwe, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday officiated the launch of China's Sinomine's 200 million U.S. dollar project to build a processing plant and increase lithium output at Bikita lithium mine, about 320 km from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
The development follows the acquisition of mining entity Bikita Minerals by Sinomine Resource Group, a Chinese mineral exploration engineering technical services company, in January.
"My government cherishes the willingness of companies from the People's Republic of China to invest in Zimbabwe. This has led to a number of top-tier Chinese conglomerates investing in various sectors of our economy, with win-win benefits for all," Mnangagwa said.
In addition, he said the investment solidifies Zimbabwe's position as a diversified mineral producer and as a major player in the battery minerals supply chain.
"It is my expectation that the development of lithium mining sector in Zimbabwe will lead to growth of value chain linkages in the manufacturing industry," said Mnangagwa.
Given Zimbabwe's vast lithium deposits, the country is well-positioned to become a center of research, development and manufacturing of green energy and lithium-based solutions in Africa, Mnangagwa added.
Wang Pingwei, director of Sinomine Group, said the company is poised to play a bigger role in the development of a lithium value addition in Zimbabwe.
"In order to promote resource value, generate tax income and bring employment opportunities for the local communities, Sinomine has decided to invest 200 million U.S. dollars in phase one to renovate the existing facilities, will build a new processing line with a capacity of up to 2 million metric tons per year," Wang said. "When fully operational, Bikita Minerals will achieve an annual income of approximately 600 million U.S. dollars, over 15 million U.S. dollars in taxes, and create more than 1,000 job opportunities."
Speaking on the same occasion, Zimbabwe's Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said the country should maximize its rich lithium deposits to position itself as a player in new technologies.
"The lithium subsector should prioritize the development of a lithium-ion battery value chain. This would accelerate Zimbabwe's transition to clean energy while also ensuring the strategic position in the global lithium-ion battery markets," he said.
Chiwenga said the lithium subsector gives numerous opportunities to explore, which would create jobs and generate income for the country.
Zimbabwe possesses Africa's largest lithium reserves and the fifth-largest globally. The growing global demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy has seen Chinese companies investing in lithium mining in recent years.
Earlier this year, a Chinese firm, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, purchased the Arcadia lithium mine near Harare from Australia-listed Prospect Resources in a deal.
In 2019, Zimbabwe set out an ambitious drive to increase revenue from mining to 12 billion U.S. dollars by 2023, with Chinese investments contributing immensely toward achieving that goal.