Abandoned emerald mine could be sitting on Zimbabwe’s biggest lithium resource


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Sandawana Mine was once one of the world’s largest emerald mines, but it shut down years ago after production collapsed and it lost markets. Now, Kuvimba Mining House wants to reopen the mine, this time as a lithium producer.

The abandoned mine, once owned by Rio Tinto, was last year the scene of a rush by illegal miners that led to a ban on the export of raw lithium in December. Kuvimba, majority-owned by the government, believes the site has potentially the largest resource of the battery metal in the country.

“To date, since January, Sandawana has mined and stockpiled 400 000 tonnes of lithium ore of an average grade of about 2%, and we are reviewing plans to build a lithium concentrate plant, with a capacity throughput of just under 5 million tonnes a year,” CEO Simba Chinyemba said at the Chamber of Mines conference yesterday.

“It is our view, based on the exploration project that we started in January, that we are sitting on the largest lithium resource in Zimbabwe.”

Kuvimba’s founding has been controversial. The company is majority state-owned, but it brought together mines initially bought by Sotic International, associated with Kuda Tagwirei, and was handed assets formerly held by the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. Among these assets is Sandawana.

Chinyemba acknowledges the company’s perception issue, joking that his company had not been mentioned in Al Jazeera’s four-part “Gold Mafia” series.

“I’ve since received a few calls, asking if there is an episode five,” says Chinyemba, adding that his company is, in fact, helping the government build a system to improve the traceability of gold.

Kuvimba was built to revive struggling mines, he says.  

“The group was set up to acquire and turn around mining entities that have otherwise fallen on hard times, been closed, or are not operating at their best and thus at risk of closure. Such mines would have been deemed to be of strategic national importance or to their local communities,” said Chinyemba.- NewZWire

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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