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As electric vehicles quickly take the world by storm, demand for lithium-ion batteries has likewise boomed. This, in turn, has resulted in unprecedented demand for lithium, with global production quadrupling since 2010. Yet Zimbabwe, which holds the world’s fifth largest lithium reserves, only produces some 1,000 metric tons of lithium per year, and the metal does not even rank amongst the country’s top exports.
“Many underestimate Zimbabwe’s potential to become the world’s next battery commodities powerhouse. This said, the country requires extensive investment to realise this potential, and to leverage the power of lithium to reignite its economic momentum,” notes Dondo Mogajane, Chief Executive Officer of the Moti Group and former Director-General of South Africa’s National Treasury.
The Moti Group, a private black-owned investment holding company, has recently announced ambitious plans to establish new lithium processing operations in Zimbabwe to the tune of US$1 billion under its mining subsidiary, Pulserate Investments. This marks an important milestone for Mogajane and Executive Director Mikaeel Moti as they seek to diversify and expand the group’s portfolio through new acquisitions and developments in high-potential industries.
Spanning 10,000 hectares in the country’s north-eastern region, the project aims to surpass the renowned Bikita Minerals lithium mine in southern Zimbabwe, which produces 60,000 tons of lithium and caesium ore annually. Mogajane believes that this move will not only help place the group among the top 20 mining companies on the continent, but also help to strengthen Zimbabwe’s foothold in the global lithium market.
“Notably, last year was the sixth warmest year in recorded history, and this trend has a worryingly sharp upward trajectory. Globally, there is increased recognition that if we want to fight climate change and decrease our collective carbon footprint, we need to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy alternatives,” states Mogajane.
“However, alternatives such as electric vehicles and solar systems are heavily reliant on lithium-ion batteries – which has created an enormous economic opportunity for Zimbabwe and any investment partners. We are excited to be playing a role in this journey by launching cutting-edge mining operations complemented by a strong focus on sustainability and social responsibility.”
Energising Zimbabwe’s growth
Lithium operations represent a significant source of revenue for the Zimbabwean government, which receives between 8% and 12% of the price of each ton of lithium through various duties and taxes. For a country still recovering from damage caused during the economic instability of the 1990s and 2000s, this revenue could be the lifeline needed to put Zimbabwe back on a more positive growth trajectory.
Additionally, following Zimbabwe’s ban on raw lithium exports in December, the Moti Group and a major Chinese battery manufacturer are likewise at an advanced stage of discussions regarding the establishment of a new local processing plant. This plant will help Zimbabwe to develop local value-added processing capabilities, further stimulating employment and commercial opportunities through supply chains.
“Zimbabwe’s lithium reserves have the potential to be a game-changer not only for the nation itself, but for the African continent as a whole. Projects like this this could pave the way for new investments and technology transfer opportunities, further strengthening the country’s value chains, creating new employment opportunities, and accelerating the pace of economic and social progress,” says Mogajane.
“Moreover, the success of the lithium mining and processing industry could potentially attract investors to explore other untapped mineral resources in Zimbabwe. This could lead to the development of a more robust and diversified mining sector, ensuring long-term economic resilience and stability in the country.”
Finally, Mogajane notes that beyond the economic benefits its new operations will bring to the country, the Moti Group further plans to support local communities through helping to deliver vital infrastructure for education and healthcare.
It has already entered discussions with local authorities regarding the rollout of its African HERO project, which aims to deliver new schools and clinics across Africa built from recycled and renovated shipping containers. These are equipped with solar power, water systems, and relevant technologies, and can be delivered to areas where there is little pre-existing infrastructure.
“As a proudly African business, this investment into Zimbabwe’s lithium industry is more than just a business venture. It signifies our vote of confidence in the country’s ability to overcome its economic challenges and transform itself into an influential global player in the lithium market.
“It is time for African countries to play a larger role in the lithium and renewable energy space, and for African companies to become frontrunners in the industries of the future. As the Moti Group, we are proud to be leading the way and helping to realise a brighter future for the continent,” concludes Mogajane.
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