Nigerian tycoon taps Zimbabwe for lithium as Africa pushes local development of its mining sector

Seth Onyango, bird story agency……

Nigerian industrialist Benedict Peters’ Bravura Holdings will start production at a Zimbabwean lithium project in 2025, boosting Africa’s drive to retain more profits from the global lithium boom, according to mining.com. African Intelligence reported in March that the Nigerian billionaire had acquired an exploration license in the key mining area of Kamativi.

Peters’ foray into lithium mining highlights opportunities for entrepreneurs to tap Africa’s rapidly expanding green minerals sector. Bravura will commence production at Zimbabwe’s Kamativi lithium tailings project early next year, producing 30,000 tons of lithium-laden spodumene concentrate.

Gbenga Ojo, Bravura’s group general manager, confirmed the company’s plans to commission the project by 2025, despite a significant decline in lithium prices, according to Bloomberg.

“We are so confident about it,” Ojo stated in Harare. “Even if it remains like this, we will go ahead with our project.”

Lithium, a key component in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, has seen prices plummet about 80% from their peak in 2022 due to oversupply.

However, Bravura is undeterred by current market conditions. The company plans to produce over 30,000 tons of spodumene concentrate annually by reprocessing waste material from a tin mine that ceased operations three decades ago.

The Zimbabwean government, holding a 40% stake in the project, illustrates a growing trend of African nations securing greater stakes in mining ventures to maximize local benefits.

Historically, Africa’s rich mineral resources have often been exploited by foreign companies, with minimal returns to local economies.

The lithium boom presents an opportunity to change this dynamic, ensuring that the continent’s resources drive local development and industrialization.

However, the drive to keep more profits from the lithium boom within Africa is not without challenges. Infrastructure deficits, regulatory hurdles, and market volatility pose significant obstacles.

In Zimbabwe, the Sandawana mine has been a focal point in the lithium rush, with thousands of artisanal miners working under perilous conditions, including reports of child labour and fatalities from mine collapses.

But there has been a shift. Zimbabwe announced a ban on the export of unprocessed lithium in December 2022, permitting only the shipping of concentrates to encourage local processing.

This move, under the Base Mineral Export Control Act, is designed to foster domestic industry and retain more value within the country.

Similarly, Namibia has also banned the export of unprocessed green minerals, including lithium, cobalt, and graphite, with exceptions requiring special approval from the mining ministry.

Ghana, too, is taking significant steps to control its green mineral resources. The country has recently approved a green minerals policy, pending parliamentary approval, aimed at ensuring that the exploitation of critical minerals benefits local populations.

“The overarching goal of the policy is to ensure that exploitation of these critical minerals inure to the benefit of the people of Ghana, the true owners of these resources,” said Samuel Jinapor, Ghana’s Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.

The global lithium market is currently dominated by Australia, Chile, and China, which together produced over 90% of the 130,000 tonnes in 2022.
However, with demand projected to increase sixfold by 2035 to meet climate targets, the market dynamics are poised for a significant shift.

Exploration projects are accelerating worldwide, and Africa is no exception. Significant lithium deposits have been identified in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, and Ethiopia.

Several projects on the continent have received backing from major players in the battery and commodity industry, such as CATL, Ganfeng Lithium, and Glencore.

Nevertheless, most African lithium projects remain at the exploration or development stage.

Benedict Peters, predominantly known for his ventures in the oil and gas sector through his Aiteo Group in Nigeria, is diversifying into the mining industry with this significant project.

His move into lithium mining underscores the broader trend of energy sector players pivoting towards sustainable and future-forward resources.

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