Bikita Minerals to invest into exploration

Bikita Minerals to invest into exploration
Published: 24 June 2014
Zimbabwe biggest lithium miner, Bikita Minerals is set to invest into exploration activities for tantalite in order to grow its portfolio, taking advantage of the firming international prices currently.

Prices for lithium compounds are reported to be creeping above 2013 averages this year, following months of positive predictions by producers.

The move to invest in exploration also comes at a time when Government is proposing the setting up of a lithium processing plant in Bulawayo as part of Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation cluster of value addition and beneficiation.

Bikita Minerals general manager Mr Grant Hudson in an interview with the Herald Business confirmed the development.

"A conventional and remote satellite survey is currently being done on the mine and the survey methodology used is the same as the one being used at the Batoka power project," he said.

"We have completed a six week geological ground survey and have taken the old records for digitalization. The company is in the process of completing a topographical ground survey using conventional survey methodologies."

Bikita Minerals has also commissioned a LIDAR (aerial survey) that will give an accurate (to within 15cm) 3D topographical map of the mining lease.

Since March 2014 Bikita minerals made use of Kinsey's and KW Blasting as the company continues to re-configure two main mining pits the site.

Mr Hudson said significant overburden removal has occurred and the company moves up to 9 000 tonnes per day while there are three more faces available for the company to mine petalite.

Sales are currently stable at around 3 500 tonnes per month.

However, the group has had trips to both China and Europe since March this year to negotiate trade terms for the 2014-2015 period.

"As a niche producer of lithium minerals (petalite), we do not compete in the battery market and our product is used mainly in ceramics and glass-based industry. We are actively exploring for tantalite, and have external consultants currently on site busy with trenching exercises.

"We have also started with process test work to assist with the metallurgical recovery of any tantalite that we may find," he said.

Companies doing the work at Bikita minerals are, Inter Alia, Southern Mapping (who are also doing the Batoka Gorge surveys), Independent Resources Estimations (IRES), Kai Batla Industry Consultants, BHM Process Consultants and SGS.

He said as with any mining operation the company is constantly in touch with potential investors with regards to ascertaining the availability of capital moving forward.

Mr Hudson said the uncertainty surrounding the indigenisation process has hampered this exercise, but they continue to engage and there is no doubt that the international mining community would like to re-establish ties with Zimbabwe once the investment protocols are deemed to be helpful rather than punitive.

Bikita Minerals has been mining petalite and tantalite for the past 45 years but due to its minimal contribution to the treasury, it ended up facing criticism for policy makers.

At the ZimAsset seminar hosted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe this year, Foreign Affairs deputy Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa launched an attack on the mining concern over its failure to contribute significantly into the fiscus.

Mr Hardson said no detailed resource study has been done before and this has necessitated the starting of the current exploration study.

Based on the resource study, adaptive mining and management processes will improve the currently less-than-exciting performance of the mine.

Mr Hardson said the plan to set up a lithium plant remains a dream.

He said of late the mine has been operating at below the required capacity because of costs involved in moving the mineral to the market.

Bikita Minerals is partly owned by Energy Minister Mr Dzikamai Mavhaire who holds a 21 percent stake.
- The Herald
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