Major lithium producer tightens export controls — RT Business News


Zimbabwe seeks to prevent losses from illegal mining and support the country’s struggling economy

The government of Zimbabwe has imposed heavy restrictions on the export of raw lithium, to curb black market sales and prevent billions of dollars in mining revenue from flowing to foreign companies.

The measures, which came into effect on December 21, are aimed at boosting revenue and helping the southern African country repay its external debt, which is approaching $14 billion.

According to a document released by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development, the government is seeking to « to ensure that the president’s vision of seeing the country become an upper-middle-income economy is realized. »

“No ore containing lithium, or unenriched lithium of any kind, shall be exported from Zimbabwe to any other country except with the written permission of the Minister,” said Mines Minister Winston Chitando.

According to Reuters news agency, three major Chinese mining companies will be exempt from the ban, having invested a total of $678 million in lithium mines and processing plants in Zimbabwe over the past year.

Zimbabwe is home to Africa’s largest deposits of lithium, a vital resource for making smartphones, car batteries and other rechargeable electronics. In 2015, the country was estimated to have lost $12 billion to illegal trade involving small-scale operations, as well as multinational companies. The missing funds would be enough to erase Zimbabwe’s huge national debt.

Mineral exports are said to account for around 60% of Zimbabwe’s export earnings, while the mining sector accounts for 16% of GDP.

With the growing demand for lithium across the world, the African state could become one of the world’s largest exporters of this metal. The government of Zimbabwe hopes to meet 20% of total global lithium demand when it fully exploits its lithium resources.

“If we keep exporting raw lithium, we’re not going anywhere. We want to see lithium batteries develop in the country. We did this in good faith for the growth of the industry,” Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura said, adding that mining companies that build processing plants will be excluded from the directive.

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