Premier African Minerals completes Zimbabwe lithium plant, production imminent

HARARE, March 29 (Reuters) - Premier African Minerals (PREM.L) said on Wednesday it had finished building a lithium processing plant at its Zulu mine in Zimbabwe and expected to start production of spodumene concentrate later this week.

Spodumene is a lithium ore with high concentration of lithium, a key component in the production of batteries for electric vehicles.

Premier built the plant, which has capacity to produce nearly 50,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate annually, as part of a $35 million offtake deal signed last year with China's CanMax Technologies (formerly Suzhou TA&A) (300390.SZ).

"We expect to produce spodumene, a lepidolite mica rich concentrate and a tantalum rich concentrate, late this week provided that final formal outstanding approvals from certain Zimbabwean authorities are received," Premier CEO George Roach said in a statement.

Zimbabwe holds some of the world's biggest hard-rock lithium deposits and has recently attracted about $700 million in investment from several Chinese firms, including CanMax, which also bought a 13.38% stake in Premier last year, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt (603799.SS), Sinomine Resource Group (002738.SZ) and Chengxin Lithium Group (002240.SZ).

On March 22, Huayou said it had started trial production from its Arcadia lithium project 40 kilometres (24.85 miles) outside Zimbabwe's capital Harare. Huayou said the $300 million Arcadia plant has capacity to process 4.5 million tonnes of lithium ore at Arcadia, producing 50,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent lithium concentrate.

Reporting by Nelson Banya Editing by Mark Potter

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