Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe (PLZ) has commenced further exploration for lithium deposits over an area within the 200 kilometre radius of its Arcadia project near Harare to expand the stock of lithium reserves.
The company, a subsidiary of Australia Stock Exchange (ASX)-listed Prospect Resources Plc, already has an off-take agreement to supply lithium production from the Arcadia project over seven years, signed with a Chinese firm Sinomine.
PLZ, one of Zimbabwe’s most promising lithium projects, is located 38 kilometres east of the capital Harare.
Patson Chimbodza, director at PLZ, said the company was on course to start production at Arcadia by June next year.
When it goes into production next year, Arcadia will become the second producing operation in Zimbabwe after Bikita Minerals in Masvingo. Other developing projects are Jimbata’s tailing project in Kamativi and Zulu Lithium in Gwanda.
Chimbodza told Business Weekly in an interview this week that after the batteries lithium producer finished on-mine exploration at Arcadia, it moved on to regional exploration within the 200km radius of the mine location.
“We have done some work on Arcadia and now we are continuing to look in the geological region (of Arcadia). When I say the geological region I mean we are looking at anything that is say within the 200 kilometre radius.
“We have what we call on-mine exploration at Arcadia, which is what we have finished and we delineated the resource. You then say; what is it that you can find within a reasonable distance (from Arcadia),” he said.
“If you find it and you evaluate; . . . with a view of just trucking to a central plant at Arcadia, so that is the work that is happening and we have got a few targets that we are looking at within that (geological region).
“We are going as far as Mutoko, around Glen Forest, Goromonzi area; so its regional exploration work within about 200 kilometres or so radius to try and find additional resources to support Arcadia,” Chimbodza said.
The Arcadia project is estimated to contain joint ore resources compliant (JORC)-compliant proven and probable ore reserves of 26,9 million tonnes grading 1,31 percent Li2O and 128ppm Ta2O5. It is estimated to contain 868 000t of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE).
The southern African nation is pushing lithium as a major draw for investors as it looks to attract capital to its mining sector following resignation of former president Robert Mugabe who ruled for nearly four decades.
Lithium Carbonate plant
PLZ has also successfully built a lithium carbonate pilot plant in Kwekwe, in the Midlands province, which has demonstrated capacity to beneficiate lithium concentrate to 99,5 percent lithium carbonate used for making electric vehicle batteries.
“The first phase of Arcadia is going to produce lithium concentrate, which is your 4 percent petalite and 6 percent spodumene; that is the first stage and that is the product we have got an off-take agreement with Sinomine of China over a seven-year period.
“And running concurrently in line with Government’s initiative for beneficiation we started more like Silicon Valley type of research and development in Kwekwe for producing lithium carbonate,” Chimbodza said.
“We have successfully managed to produce lithium carbonate at a laboratory scale. We then up-scaled that to a pilot plant, which is running already as we speak, but it is just a pilot plant and not a commercial production.
“In the meantime, we are then working on putting this 1,2 million tonnes per year plant at Arcadia to produce the concentrate. We are still on course, we are running a few delays on a few critical items, but are still on course production sometime in 2019,” he added.
Govt support and S E Z status
Chimbodza said Government was rendering all the support the company requested to ensure they start production at the earliest time possible and ahead of other global non-hard rock lithium projects set to come on line soon.
“The issue is that with lithium, it is about (what time) you bring your mine into production so that you become relevant in the global dynamics. So in view of that, Arcadia was placed as one of the Government 100-day results initiatives.
“So we did Phase One of the 100 days (RRI) and we did Phase Two. And those phases, we managed to expedite quite a number of milestones chief among them is the conversion of our title into a mining lease. There is also a number of licensing to do with storage, procurement, transportation of explosives at site; that is also something that we were working with our parent ministry. There is support in terms our application for economic zone status.
“So we ticked off a number of boxes in a very short space of time because of that assistance we got from Government through the rapid results initiative,” he said.