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Premier confident of Zulu lithium profitability – Chronicle

The Chronicle

Nqobile Bhebhe , [email protected]

MINING and natural resource development company, Premier African Minerals  chief executive officer, Mr George Roach, says due to projected production of concentrate levels at the lithium plant in Fort Rixon, the firm expects to operate profitably, taking advantage of favourable concentrate prices.

The lithium firm recently began production in Insiza District, Matabeleland South, effectively setting the tone for its first concentrate production, which is a major development in the country’s mining sector.

The firm looks forward to the first shipment of spodumene in June. Spodumene is a battery-grade product, which is key for the future of electric cars.

Chief executive officer, Mr George Roach

Due to the emerging electric motor vehicle industry, there is increased international demand for the lithium mineral known as “white oil”, which is used for manufacturing batteries.

Zimbabwe has the largest lithium reserves in Africa and the fifth-largest worldwide. In an update on Thursday, Mr Roach said the process plant is fully commissioned and capable of producing concentrate.

He indicated that the plant supplier has advised that the milling and sizing component of the plant requires certain limited modifications to allow for full optimisation to design capacity throughput.

“The plant supplier has provided details and timelines for this remedial action and pending completion of this work, has advised that expected production of concentrate to 30 June 2023 will be 1,376 tons and production for July and August will be 1,137 tons per month, increasing to 2,359 tons in September, 3,577 tons in October 2023 and 4,471 tons from 1 December 2023,” he said.

“At present concentrate prices and production at these current levels to the end of August, the company expects Zulu to operate profitably.”

According to the update, the modifications include the upgrade of screening, relocation of the mill and addition of cyclones to remove correctly sized material to the floatation plant.

“Premier understands that the costs associated with this remedial action will be met by the plant supplier, and we will work with them to ensure that the plant achieves nameplate throughput expeditiously,” said Mr Roach.

Meanwhile, the CEO said based on the March 29, update, Premier’s requirements to supply spodumene to Canmax Technologies Co., Ltd. (“Canmax”) are to ship first product by May 30, 2023 (which will not now be met), failing which CanMax may elect to cancel the Marketing and Pre-Payment Agreement and require that the prepayment plus interest is settled within 90 days following notice.

He said Canmax has always been supportive of Premier, and they continue to engage with them and look forward to first shipment in June.

“While frustrated with the timeline for putting the plant into full production, I am encouraged by our growing confidence in our resource and mining operations, near completion of our dam and tailings facility, performance of the crushing, sorting, and floatation elements of the plant,” said Mr Roach.

“The company has previously advised that the delays had caused our cash to be constrained. Recent exercise of options and the issue of remaining shares free from pre-emptive rights by way of direct placement, has provided interim relief to this position.

“Alternative further funding may need to be sought if there are any further significant shipment delays,” he noted

Recently, the entity was in the market seeking to raise £1 759 500 to assist with further operational funding of the ongoing optimisation operations and general working capital purposes necessary for the group.

Early this year, the chairman Canmax Technologies Co., Ltd Mr Pei Zenzhue who injected US$35 million pre-funding to enable the construction and commissioning of a large-scale pilot plant at the project had his first visit to the site and expressed his satisfaction with the progress we are making.

Zimbabwe is envisioning a US$12 billion mining industry, which is a key enabler of Vision 2030 of achieving an upper-middle-income economy by 2030.

Lithium has already proved its position as a strategic mineral given its role in the storage, use and transfer of energy, which has touched the globe through use of smartphones for global communication, laptops, electric grid stability, and storage to power homes, and electric vehicles.

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Mealie-meal diverted to black market – The Herald

Bulawayo Bureau

ILLICIT deals involving some unscrupulous suppliers and traders have been blamed for creating artificial shortages of mealie-meal in formal shops while the commodity is being diverted to the streets and pavements where it is being sold strictly in foreign currency. 

Market analysts say this suffocation of supplies to major retail shops creates the impression that there is a shortage of supplies, and yet in actual fact, it is a ploy to force consumers to buy using forex as informal sector operators refuse local dollar transactions. 

A snap survey conducted by Chronicle in Bulawayo yesterday revealed that major retail outlets such as TM Pick n’ Pay and OK supermarkets did not have mealie-meal on their shelves. 

Other retail outlets such as Choppies, Spar, Greens, and Oceans, were also facing a similar predicament, although some had little stocks left on shelves. 

This news crew observed that major brands such as Red Seal, Blue-Ribbon, and Pearlenta had completely vanished from retail shop shelves with only a few competing brands such as Oceans, Membar, and sorghum meals being available in smaller quantities. 

Concerned customers who made inquiries with staffers could not get satisfactory answers, as some shops indicated that they have not had supplies for the past weeks. 

The situation is different on the informal sector where most products and all brands are fully stocked, and the business thrives more at night. At the moment there is no standard price for mealie-meal as it varies from one shop to another with 10kgs ranging between ZWL$14 000 and ZWL$$18 000 depending on brands. 

In foreign currency terms, the price of a 10kg mealie-meal ranges between US$5 and US$6 while that of a 50kg bag was pegged at US$27. 

“We have not had mealie-meal in the shop for almost a week now. As you can see what was a mealie-meal shelf is now accommodating tomato sauce, juices or whatever is in abundance,” said a merchandiser from OK supermarket. 

The same sentiments were echoed by Pick n’ Pay where shop workers said supplies were slim as getting orders was becoming a challenge with suppliers demanding forex payment upfront. 

Contacted for comment, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairman, Mr Tafadzwa Musarara, requested to have questions in writing and had not responded by time of going to print. However, Small-Scale Millers Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr Davis Muhambi, said the artificial shortages could be linked to supply chain bottlenecks. 

“I don’t want to be speculative but there is a great possibility that millers have cut off the supply chain. The availability of mealie-meal and maize needs to be investigated thoroughly,” he said. 

“Millers could possibly be holding the commodity as they may deem that it is no longer sustainable to supply the commodity in RTGs as compared to US dollars. 

There are a lot of technicalities involved, which may require them to keep afloat, as well as to make profits from their business,” said Mr Muhambi. 

He urged the Government to urgently investigate the issue and adopt appropriate measures to address the solution. Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president, Mr Denford Mutashu, said supply chain disruption was linked to the resurgent exchange rate volatility, which has resulted in sharp depreciation of the local currency. 

“Government should urgently look into this matter. In fact, it should step up and consider the recommendations that we made to them to arrest such a scenario,” he said. 

“Millers may and are possibly cutting off the supply due to the prevailing black-market rates. Mealie-meal must be prioritised as an urgent matter as it will fuel an upsurge of other commodities,” said Mr Mutashu. 

He said it was ironic that while formal shops have no supplies, most commodities were readily available on the black market as suppliers were opting for foreign currency as opposed to the RTGs. 

“Most commodities are readily available on the parallel market and in backyard kiosks where they are being sold at prices up to three times the official rate,” said Mr Mutashu. 

“A 10 kg bag of maize meal sells for about US$6 as compared to the official price of the RTGs, which is between $15 000 and $20 000.” 

Consumers who spoke to the news crew expressed frustration over the inconvenience caused by traders and appealed for Government intervention. 

“I just came to buy mealie-meal and to my surprise it’s not available in such a big shop. This is a serious cause for concern,” said Mr Timothy Mpofu. 

Meanwhile, the Government has announced tight policy measures aimed at stabilising the macro-economic environment and restoring the value of the local currency. This includes the lifting of all restrictions on the importation of basic commodities so as to boost market supplies as part of broader measures geared at tackling resurgent price madness and stabilising the economy. 

Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, has said the interventions have been necessitated by the resurgence of speculative macro-economic instability in which domestic inflation is driven primarily by the skewed preference for the use of the United States dollar as a savings currency. 

Prof Ncube said the escalation in prices has piled enormous pressure on the exchange rate as the skewed preferences have continued to increase the velocity of the Zimbabwe dollar. 

A Cabinet committee has also been set up to investigate the latest spate of basic commodity price increases as the Government moves to ensure corrective measures are taken to protect consumers.

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US$12 billion mining economy on course – The Herald

Bulawayo Bureau

ZIMBABWE’S mining industry has registered significant strides towards realising the ambitious US$12 billion milestone by the end of this year, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando has said. 

Speaking at the lithium symposium during the mining conference organised by the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe yesterday, Chitando, who was the guest speaker, said Government’s comprehensive doing business reforms have increased the appetite for investment into the mining sector leading to the opening up of new projects. 

He said there were huge opportunities especially in the lithium mining value chain as the mineral was on high demand around the globe. 

“We have a number of significant mining projects in various minerals, which are coming to fruition. The growth we have had in the mining industry I must say, as we are targeting the US$12 billion milestone, which is possible largely because of the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra, has enabled mining projects and increased appetite for investing in Zimbabwe thanks to the policies by President Mnangagwa,” said Minister Chitando. 

In order to sustain the mining industry momentum, he said there was a need for continued dialogue between the industry and the Government. 

The minister also challenged mining entities to invest in skills development for the sustenance of the sector. He said the growth of the mining sector will also see the manufacturing sector grow. 

“I urge all in the mining sector to fully participate and play a part in the development of skills. The level of skills we have in the country is because certain mining companies have accorded trade apprentices and I would love to urge all your members to please take skills training as a call to ensure that you provide training,” said Chitando. 

“I urge the industry to have a sustainable skills level because as the industry grows, and that is not matched with skills, you compete for the skills, which are there.” 

The minister said it was worrying that the Zimbabwe School of Mines, which trains skills at the diploma level is indicating downsizing the intake citing various challenges. 

He, however, commended the contribution of small-scale miners who are making a significant input towards the US$12 billion target. 

In terms of lithium, discussions at the lithium conference hovered around unlocking value in the sector, which participants said is a sleeping giant that needs awakening. 

Minister Chitando said the country had liberalised mining of lithium as long as all regulatory conditions are met. 

He was making reference to concerns about the ban of exports of raw lithium by the Government to encourage investment in local processing facilities. 

Zimbabwe has the largest reserves of lithium in Africa and the 6th in the world hence Government moved to address smuggling of the sought after mineral, which is costing the country about US$1,8 billion in lost mining earnings. 

Minister Chitando said despite the ban on export of lithium ore, anyone can mine lithium as long as the entity has a licence. 

He said the Mines and Minerals Act provides for the mining of lithium, processing and storage transportation and exports of value-added lithium wholly owned Zimbabwean entities can be given a waiver to export for two years once they demonstrate commitment to regulation. 

Minister Chitando implored mining entities to work closely with each other for the common goal of developing the mining industry. 

“The intention of the Government is to move the whole value chain so it is important for us to work together as industry to ensure that industry achieves its goals and also that as Government we achieve our goal for value addition,” he said.

“So, it is important that as lithium players we get together. We do have plans, which have been submitted by some of the investors who would want to invest in the value chain and it is important that we work together to have a very clear roadmap of value addition because that is Government policy.” 

Namibia Chamber of Mines vice president Mr George Botshiwe concurred saying lithium is important not only in Zimbabwe but to the region. He said there are opportunities for regional integration in the lithium space. 

“The resources are there and must be mined on our terms and the onus is on us the owners to maximise the benefits. We need to leverage this resource, opportunities are there in the whole value chain so we need to collaborate and work together,” he said. 

The conference started yesterday and ends tomorrow under the theme: “Mining for economic development: Creating growth enablers for the mining industry.”

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Re-engagement drive pays off – The Herald

Re-engagement drive pays off

Blessings Chidakwa-Herald Reporter

COTE d’Ivoire has for the first time opened a consulate in Harare owing to President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement policy which has seen the world warming up to Zimbabwe, while old relations with states like Serbia are being deepened.

Yesterday, new ambassadors from the Republics of Saharawi Arab Democratic, Cote d’Ivoire, Serbia, and Hungary presented their credentials to President Mnangagwa at State House with the latter saying his country will be offering scholarships to Zimbabwe.

This is all part of the successful engagement and re-engagement drive by the Second Republic as a friend to all and enemy to none. 

First to present credentials was Saharawi Arab Democratic envoy Mr Moussa Zaoui Louali followed by Mr Sakaria Kone (Cote d’Ivoire), Mr Goran Vujicic (Serbia), and Mr Attilia Gyorgy Horvath (Hungary).

Mr Louali

Cote d’Ivoire envoy Mr Kone said he was honoured and privileged to be the first Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire to the Republic of Zimbabwe.

“This is long overdue and I am very happy that President Alassane Ouattara wanted this to happen. 

“This follows a visit by President Mnangagwa to Cote d’Ivoire where the two exchanged notes and underscored the need to join hands in terms of advancing our agenda nationally, continentally, and internationally,” he said.

Mr Kone said he looks forward to working closely with Zimbabwe to advance partnerships in commerce, agriculture, and business-to-business interaction. Serbian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Goran Vujicic said he was grateful to be accredited for his second term in the country.

Mr Vujicic

“I can assure you that my mission will do its utmost to restore everything that was part of the development of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Vujicic added that he would help facilitate exchange programmes with experts between the two nations so that they grow together.

Hungary Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Horvath said his country already enjoys cordial relations with Zimbabwe, which can only be enhanced.

Mr Horvath

“Our bilateral relations are very good but we have to boost them. So, we will try to identify more territories in our economy, particularly in the education and science sectors,” he said.

Saharawi Arab Democratic envoy Mr Louali said he reiterated to President Mnangagwa his country’s commitment to work hand-in-hand with Zimbabwe to achieve common interests, aspirations, and goals.

“Our diplomatic relations are deep. I am looking forward to strengthening them and taking them to the highest level,” he said.

Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and the acting permanent secretary in the ministry Ambassador Rofina Chikava attended the event.

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