Lithium is in increasing demand as it has become a key component required in electric vehicle batteries. In 2021, the world will produce 540,000 tons of lithium. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 global demand will exceed 3 million tonnes.
Lithium reserves are found all over the world. Entire African continent Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali all have significant supplies. The price of lithium has skyrocketed. Prices in May 2022 are 7 times Mineral-rich countries like Zimbabwe are taking notice.
Zimbabwe has been mining lithium for 60 years, and the government has invested about 11 million tons of lithium resources. country is 6th largest producer International Trade Controls projects have the potential to meet 20% of global demand if fully exploited known resources.
“The past few years have seen a lot of investment in the mining sector,” said Prosper Chimbala, development economist at the Zimbabwe Labor and Economic Development Institute. It means you have to move up.”
In December 2022, Zimbabwe passed the Basic Minerals Export Control Act. Banned the export of raw lithiumHowever, companies developing mines and processing plants in Zimbabwe are exempt from this ban.including Chinese companies Zhejiang Huayang Cobalt, Shinomine Resource Group and Chengxin Lithium Group invested $678 million For the lithium project in Zimbabwe.
“Any government in the world must react when resources are flying in all directions,” said Farai Maguwu, director of the Zimbabwe Center for Natural Resources Governance. Things are still legally exported out of the country, and I think the government simply wanted to control the lithium that was being mined by artisanal miners, but it was not accounted for and smuggled out of the country. rice field. “
Artisan mining, or small-scale mining, is a predominantly informal method of extracting minerals using basic tools by individuals. The Zimbabwe government estimates that artisanal mining plays an important role in the livelihoods of more than one million Zimbabweans.
“It was the artisanal miners who were most affected by the mining ban,” said Joseph Mujere, a lecturer in modern African history at the University of York. “They were already accumulating large amounts of raw lithium that they were preparing to sell,” he said.
The Center for Natural Resource Governance estimates that the government has lost nearly $2 billion in cross-border smuggled minerals to artisanal leaks.
“There are two stories,” said Magu. “The political narrative that mining is the savior of the economy. Then the grassroots narrative that mining is undermining our livelihoods. We are sitting in between. I would love to see you contribute, but not at the expense of the people of Zimbabwe.”
Artisan miners have been affected by the export ban, but the Chinese have benefited from it. The country’s largest lithium mines, the Bikita and Arcadia Lithium mines, are both owned by Chinese.
In 2022, Chinese mining company Aoyama will: china nonferrous metal and huayang cobalt almost investment $1.5 billion in the same year as Zimbabwe Shinomine Resource Group Announces plans to expand current production at Biquita mine with investment $200 million For the construction of a new lithium plant.
“If we invest in the Chinese and let them do what Zimbabweans can do, we are building China, not Zimbabwe,” Maguu said. “Zimbabweans are telling us to make room for Zimbabweans.”
The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe declined to comment on the statement.
china is 70% of global EV battery production capacityand our consistent commitment to African countries over more than two decades has put us well-positioned to access the resources needed to continue this trend.
“The Chinese have been playing for the keep,” said Mvemba Fezo Disolele, director of the Africa program at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies. “U.S., our relationship is not always permanent. China is consistent in that,” he said.
In December, President Joe Biden welcomed 49 African leaders in Washington, D.C., the country’s second US-Africa summit, the first since the Obama administration.
“The United States is committed to Africa’s future,” Biden said at the summit.
The summit was seen as an important step in trying to restore relations that had been difficult during the Trump administration. It is worth noting that In his place was Foreign Minister Frédéric Shaba.
“The fact that he came is also a signal that the US is interested in maintaining relations with Zimbabwe,” Disolele said.
While the United States has made its intentions clear when it comes to engaging in business with Africa, the reality is that China has roots on the African continent. It will be difficult for America to make up for lost time. In 2009, China surpassed the United States to become Africa’s largest trading partner. The country has grown its total trade with Africa from $121 million in 1950 to $254 billion in 2021 compared to the United States, which was her $64 billion in 2021. bottom.
“America has been inconsistent in how it has engaged with Africa,” Disolele said. “If you leave and come back ten years later, that void you left will be filled by someone else, so it’s important that we’re consistent.