HARARE-- Canadian company Chimata Gold Corporation says it is investing at least 33 million US dollars to process lithium dumps at the Kamativi Mine in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland North province, and will seek to secure additional funds to set up a lithium carbonate plant in the country.

Lithium carbonate is a by-product of spodumene, a more valuable type of lithium, which is used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries.

Chimata has entered into a 60-40 joint venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZDMC) to exploit the lithium-rich dumps. An official with the company told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy here Monday that samples to ascertain the value and extent of the resource at the mine had already commenced and results from samples sent to South Africa were expected by next month.

"The Kamativi tailings dump investment is approximately 33 million USD which will come from us. We are a local consortium and we are raising that money on the Canadian stock exchange. If we go into lithium carbonate production we will be looking to raise another 100 million to 150 million USD to put the lithium carbonate plant into production," the company official said.

The official said within the second half of this year, the company would put up a 200 ton per hour test plant to begin lithium production. "That will be approximately five million to seven million USD worth of investment. Once we have completed the test work from that dense media separation plant, we will then invest a further 20 million to 25 million USD in a 400 ton per hour concentrator plant and we will produce approximately 17,000 to 19,000 tons per month of spodumene concentrate."

He said within the same period, Chimata has committed 500,000 USD on conducting a due diligence on a refinery in Kadoma that could be converted into a lithium carbonate plant.

"If that due diligence is not successful we have already opened discussions with the ZMDC in terms of a lithium carbonate plant somewhere else in Zimbabwe because we believe we have the volume of concentrate in the country to warrant a lithium carbonate plant," he said.

The official said there was scope for setting up a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe, but several challenges, especially transport infrastructure, needed to be addressed.

"There are a serious number of lithium projects coming on stream around the world and if we are going to make an impact we need to be quick," he said. "I have had a discussion with the Honorable Minister (of Mines, Winston Chitando) and he has put in place a committee which is going to be looking at lithium-ion battery manufacturing in the country and it's made up of a number of prominent people in the mining sector so we are going to be looking at that and going back with recommendations to see how quickly we can get ourselves into battery manufacturing."

According to estimates, the global lithium-ion battery market is expected to reach 93.1 billion USD by 2025 because of increased usage of lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles and portable consumer electronics. Lithium-ion batteries are used in applications that require lightweight and high-energy density solutions.