China Secures Lithium Leadership: Multimillion-Dollar Zimbabwe Plants Boost Global Supply Chain Control

March 10, 2024
Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt is another key player in Zimbabwe's lithium extraction industry | Report Focus News
Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt is another key player in Zimbabwe's lithium extraction industry

China is getting a head start in the global rush for lithium after several mining companies completed multimillion-dollar processing plants for the “white gold” in Zimbabwe.

Major Chinese companies, including Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group and Chengxin Lithium Group, all completed the construction or upgrade of lithium processing plants in Zimbabwe last year.

The southern African country is home to one of the world’s largest hard rock lithium reserves, attracting Chinese companies in search of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries used to power a host of products from electric vehicles to solar panels.

It means that in the global transition to green energy, Zimbabwe’s lithium reserves are hot property.

Beijing currently controls the global lithium-ion battery industry, while it also dominates much of the processing of the mineral. In order to get the raw materials it needs, China has ramped up its procurement of lithium from Africa and other places, amid disquiet from Washington over Beijing’s grip on critical metal supply chains.

That grip got even tighter last year when African exports of lithium, which mostly go to China, rose sharply between August and November. That was when the companies commissioned processing plants for two products – mainly lithium concentrates spodumene and petalite – for export to China for further processing into lithium chemicals to make batteries and other electronics.

Last year saw an increase in Chinese construction contracts and investments in Africa, signalling a recovery from the pandemic-led slowdown.

According to data from London-based price reporting agency Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, in 2023 Zimbabwean spodumene concentrate exports to China increased nearly five-fold to 177,000 tonnes, compared to 38,000 tonnes exported in 2022.

South Morning Post