China’s Sinomine Resource Group, referred to as China Mineral Resources, has embarked on a $200m project to build a lithium plant and expand existing operations at the Bikita Minerals lithium mine in Zimbabwe.

Located in the Bikita hills of Masvingo province in Zimbabwe, the mine was recently acquired by Sinomine for $180m.

The mine has been in operation since 1950.

Although the Bikita mine predominantly produces petalite, a lithium mineral that is used in the ceramic and glass industries, the new investment will allow the mine to produce spodumene – a key battery mineral, according to Reuters.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who officiated at Sinomine’s launch event at Bikita Minerals, said that Sinomine’s investment in reconstruction, expansion and construction of new production lines at Bikita Minerals will consolidate the South African country’s position as a diversified mineral producer.

The investment is also expected to position the country as a major player in the battery mineral supply chain while bringing value growth to the manufacturing industry chain, Mnangagwa added.

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Zimbabwe holds significant lithium deposits and has the capacity to become Africa’s green energy development and manufacturing hub.

Mnangagwa said that Zimbabwe, with support from foreign investment, could fully develop lithium resources and help attain ‘a mining output value reaching $12bn in 2023’ goal.

With the new investment, Sinomine plans to increase the mining and processing capacity at the Bikita mine to 1.2Mtpa by the end of this year.

It also intends to build a new ore production line with a 2Mpta capacity.