China protects Zimbabwe’s source of metals used in EVs

China protects Zimbabwe’s source of metals used in EVs

A Chinese company recently signed an agreement with a Zimbabwean lithium mine to export metals to China from 2023, which is important for making batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Monday.

China-based Suzhou TA&A Ultra Clean Technology Co. has beaten about a dozen competitors from other regions, including Europe and Australia, to secure a lithium export deal with Zimbabwe’s Zulu Lithium Mines, according to a report by DW, a subsidiary of Premier African Minerals.

George Roach, chief executive of Zulu Lithium Mines, told Reuters on Monday that the firm had decided to do business with Suzhou TA&A Ultra Clean Technology Company “from a swarm of Chinese, European and Australian investors”.

“At one point, I was involved in 11 separate discussions with people who want Zulu!” “It was a very intense time,” Roach added.

Premier African Minerals plans to start shipping a lithium-containing rock called Spoodumin Concentrate from its Zimbabwe mine by the end of March 2023, according to a newly signed agreement.

According to Roach, Suzhou has agreed to inject $ 35 million to build a high-capacity pilot plant at Zulu Lithium Mine. Estimated output from this national plant would be “about 50,000 tons of spodumin concentrated annually,” Reuters noted.

The news agency gave more details of the metal deal on Monday, writing:

Construction work for the funds could begin immediately, Roach said, with the goal of shipping by March 31, 2023, and increasing production at the Spodumin concentrate to about 48,000 tons per year.

In March, Suzhou Premier became a 13.38% shareholder [African Minerals] Through a private placement where it injected 12 million pounds ($ 14.37 million) into the company, it confirmed the supply of spodumin concentrate to China’s top lithium chemical producer Ibn Tianyi, which is jointly owned by CATL, the world’s largest electric vehicle battery maker.

People communicate in front of Zimbabwe's new parliament building on Mount Hampden Hill in Zimbabwe on June 29, 2022.  Zimbabwe's new parliament building, built by China as a gift to the South African country and fully funded, is now complete and ready for occupation.  (Shawn Jusa / Xinhua photo via Getty Images)

People communicate in front of Zimbabwe’s new parliament building on Mount Hampden Hill in Zimbabwe on June 29, 2022. Zimbabwe’s new parliament building, built by China as a gift to the South African country and fully funded, is now complete and ready for occupation. (Shawn Jusa / Xinhua photo via Getty Images)

Reuters describes Suzhou TA&A Ultra Clean Technology Co. “mainly engaged in the research, development, production and sale of anti-static ultra-clean products.” News agency Zulu describes Premier Lithium Mining, the parent company of Premier African Minerals, as a “multi-commodity mining and natural resource development company.”

Lithium is a metal used to make electric batteries. The growing popularity of lithium battery powered electric vehicles (EVs) has made the metal a hot product in recent years.

“Suzhou’s is a move similar [sic]China’s Zhejiang Huayu Cobalt last month announced plans to invest 300 million in a hard-rock lithium mine just outside the Zimbabwean capital, ”DW reported on July 11.

Beijing has an established connection with Zimbabwe through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The program looks at Chinese government-funded infrastructure projects in developing or low-income countries, often through dubious loan structures that threaten to push participants into more debt to Beijing.

Decades of economic mismanagement and corruption in Zimbabwe’s socialist government have made the country one of the poorest in the world. In 2019, the United Nations estimated that Zimbabwe was “on the brink of man-made starvation, where 60% of the population is now considered food-insecure.” The South African country’s recent lithium export prospects will provide a much-needed boost to Zimbabwe’s economy, although China’s past BRI projects have often failed to generate economic growth locally as promised by Beijing.

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