MPs shoot down plan to revive Empress refinery

MPs shoot down plan to revive Empress refinery
Published: 22 June 2018
PARLIAMENT has recommended that it would be cheaper to build a new lithium processing plant in Zimbabwe than refurbishing an existing refinery in Kadoma.

This follows an offer by a local firm to reconfigure the Empress Nickel Refinery (ENR) near Kadoma for the processing of lithium, a new mineral found in abundance in Zimbabwe, which is in demand worldwide.

"The refurbishment of the Kadoma refinery will cost between $400 million and $600 million," the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy said in a report released last week.

"Building a brand new lithium plant costs about $250 million. There is an idle asset at Eiffel Flats and the idea is to refurbish a portion of that and get it up and running at a 10th of the cost. The other big factor considered by the operators is that there is power, water, a railway line and skilled personnel. This will enable the plant to produce battery grade lithium carbonate required for production of lithium batteries used to power electric vehicles and for solar storage," the report added.

In May, the Kadoma-based ENR said it was eyeing huge opportunities for toll processing that have emerged in Zimbabwe's new lithium mines.

Battery manufacturers and a string of other industries have been seeking the mineral, which is also used to produce an array of products.

Zimbabwe has made significant discoveries of lithium in the past few years and work to kick off production started in the past three years.

Should lithium miners agree to process their output at ENR, the project will create 400 new jobs, according to the company.

The facility currently processes a few minerals to keep it running.

"Joint venture negotiations are at an advanced stage with a partner to produce lithium carbonate. We can treat up to 600 tonnes of concentrate per day and 74 tonnes per day of lithium carbonate," ENR said at a lithium symposium at the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe annual general meeting.

"The capacity to process lithium in Zimbabwe is huge," ENR noted.

"This will reduce the cost of setting up a new plant, and we will be able to generate revenue early. The ENR plant can be retrofitted to produce lithium carbonate. We already have the skilled workforce at ENR," it said.

Lithium miners in Zimbabwe include Zulu Lithium, which is owned by the London-listed Premier African Miners, and the Toronto-listed Prospect Resources, which is establishing Arcadia Mine near Harare.

Other producers are Zimbabwe Lithium, which has entered into a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation to process dumps at Kamativi Mine.

Bikita Minerals, one of the oldest mines in the country, is also producing lithium in Masvingo.

- fingaz
Tags: MP, Empress,


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