Lithium Rush In Mberengwa: Police Order Miners To Vacate The Area

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Lithium Rush In Mberengwa: Police Order Miners To Vacate The Area

More than 5 000 artisanal miners and fortune seekers, including foreigners, mainly of Chinese origin, have descended on the former Sandawana Mine in Mberengwa, Midlands province, in search of lithium.

Sandawana Mine is in the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) portfolio and has been famed for producing emeralds and other precious stones.

Lithium is a rare mineral whose production is currently taking place in only eight countries, with 85% of the global supply coming from Australia, Chile and China.

Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth-largest lithium producer. Its lithium output has risen steadily in recent years, producing 1 200 metric tonnes of the metal in 2021.

Government is bullish on the quantum of the metal within its borders with Mines minister Winston Chitando recently telling the media that Zimbabwe has the potential to account for 20% of global lithium demand when all known lithium resources are exploited.

Most of the lithium from Mberengwa is being smuggled into South Africa with dealers manipulating the laxity at the Beitbridge border post, according to Zimbabwe Independent.

Artisanal miners are earning at most US$150 per tonne while the “buyers” are earning as much as US$800 when they resale the mineral.

More than 5 000 artisanal miners have been camped in Mberengwa mining lithium ore while trucks from South Africa are based at the mining sites, Zimbabwe Independent reported.

Mines and Mining Development deputy minister Polite Kambamura confirmed that the government was aware of the developments. He said:

We have just heard of what is happening in Mberengwa, but I am visiting the place tomorrow (today). We will make a statement after the visit tomorrow.

On Wednesday police details visited the place and issued a four-day ultimatum for the miners to vacate the place.

Mberengwa residents have been complaining about the development saying they will be left with degraded land. 

Dr Takavafira Zhou, PTUZ president who also hails from Mberengwa, said the District did not gain from the mining of emeralds at Sandawana and is going to get nothing again this time. He said in a message seen by Pindula News:

The looting of Mberengwa resources continues unabated. We have nothing to show for such wealth and the government has abandoned us to the worst poverty. Ours is a case of a resource curse.

Tagwirei is at it again taking extensive lithium land in Mberengwa for personal aggrandisement. The people of Mberengwa have nothing to show for their rich resources and are only rewarded with plunder, poverty, looting, development of underdevelopment and underdevelopment of development. The government is to blame. Those with political power are beneficiaries and would not want the anomaly to be addressed for the benefit of the generality of the masses. There is no form of corporate social development, there are no roads in Mberengwa.

Mberengwa has senior government officials including Hon Dr (Jorum McDonald) Gumbo and Hon July Moyo who must rise to the occasion and enhance benefits from mining ventures in Mberengwa.

Mberengwa is endowed with minerals such as gold, iron ore, emeralds, lithium, tantalite, chromium, antimony, asbestos, corundum, lead, magnetite, talc, tantalum, tungsten, cordierite, and beryl, but remains one of the most underdeveloped districts in Zimbabwe.

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