Chinese mining company Sinomine Resource Group has announced the completion of $300m (2.17bn yuan) of upgrade projects at its Zimbabwe lithium locations.

The Bikita mine, which Sinomine purchased in January 2022, has had a spodumene concentrate plant added to the project as well as an expansion of the existing petalite plant.

The new spumodene concentrate plant will enable Bikita to produce 300,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of the high-purity lithium ore, while the mine’s petalite production has been upgraded to 480,000tpa.

The Bikita mine is one of the world’s ten largest lithium mines by production. In 2022, it produced 26,600t of the metal, an integral part of electric vehicle batteries.

The mine’s upgrade and expansion was initially announced in June 2022 with a $200m price tag. Sinomine acquired the project for $180m the previous January.

At the time, Zimbabwean President Emerson Mnangagwa said that foreign investment could help the country to achieve “a mining output value reaching $12bn (Z$4.34trn) in 2023”.

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By GlobalData

Sinomine director Wang Zhenhua told Mnangagwa when they met in April 2022 that the company could help Zimbabwe meet that target.  

There has been much foreign investment into Zimbabwean minerals in the past few years to support Mnangagwa’s ambitions, much of which has come from China.

In May 2022, China’s Huayou Cobalt announced a $300m investment into its Arcadia mine site in Zimbabwe, which it had acquired the previous month for $377.8m.

Furthermore, in November 2022, Mnangagwa announced that Chinese miner Tsingshan would enter the Zimbabwean lithium market with both mining and processing operations.

Zimbabwe is just one area of the global lithium trade in which Sinomine has been expanding. In February, the company revealed it would be investing CA$176m (US$130.6m) to build a mineral processing plant at its Tanco mine in Canada.