Prospect Resources Limited announcement on Friday of its plans to build a floatation pilot plant at Arcadia Mine near Harare to process bulk samples for its lithium markets globally, demonstrates more than just the progress the project is making.
The lithium company is listed on the Australia stock exchange and is based in Perth but with operations in Zimbabwe. Prospect’s flagship project is the Arcadia Lithium Project located on the outskirts of Harare.
Other than providing solid demonstration of how far the Greenfield lithium project has come, the Arcadia project, it reflects part of progress in the lithium sector towards the Government’s grand scheme of building a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023.
The Government launched the US$12 mining industry target by 2023 in October 2019 as part of the new administration’s broader macroeconomic roadmap towards an Upper Middle-Income Economy by 2030 with per capita income above US$4 300.
In any case, milestones achieved by key mining initiatives such as Prospect’s Arcadia project represent a huge leap forward in the country’s quest to optimise returns and benefits from mining, which generates over 60 percent of annual exports.
And Arcadia is one among several mega projects in platinum, gold, chrome, diamonds, coal and nickel, to name but a few, which are taking shape in the mineral rich southern African country and primed to ignite a palpably imminent economic boom and turnaround for Zimbabwe.
Lithium mining, including Prospect’s Arcadia project that is expected to create over 700 jobs in the first phase, will promote significant foreign capital flow into Zimbabwe, as global demand for both chemical (electric car battery) and technical grade lithium (glass and ceramics production) grows.
Prospect said it will commence construction of the flotation pilot plant to produce high purity petalite and spodumene, with long lead equipment items now secured. This plant will replicate Arcadia’s capacity at a large scale to supply global markets.
The high purity flotation pilot plant will de-risk the flotation process by operating the optimised flow sheet, supply bulk samples of high purity products to customers in the technical and chemical markets, to obtain product qualification and maximise market demand for Arcadia’s products;
Further, the pilot plant will supply samples to Uranium One Group, off-taker and prospective investor, for their own product validation purposes and continuing due diligence on Prospect and the Arcadia Lithium Mine, as well as enhance all technical elements of the project execution phase.
The plant will initially produce bulk samples of 500 tonnes of petalite and 120 tonnes of spodumene concentrates for qualification by the customer, large producers in Europe and Asia.
Processing technology will demonstrate Prospect’s ability to produce high-purity products at planned volumes and samples to be sent to current and potential off-take partners in the first half of 2021.
Prospect Resources said it had already secured long lead equipment items and was now commencing the pilot plant project at the company’s Arcadia Lithium Mine, near Harare, to produce high-purity petalite and spodumene samples.
Prospect’s managing director Sam Hosack said: “Our current key focus is to operate a pilot plant to replicate the Arcadia flow sheet to produce high purity petalite and spodumene.
“The (Arcadia) pilot plant delivers a number of key objectives for customers, project finance parties and investors in de-risking the Arcadia project. It is a major milestone that we have secured the long-lead purchases.”
The design of the pilot plant is based on flotation test work done by Anzaplan and scaled up to a pilot plant size by the Beijing General Research Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (BGRIMM) using proven flotation technology solutions.
Anzaplan is a European consultancy and engineering firm well equipped to develop flow sheet and process design following different processing routes for lithium-bearing minerals such as spodumene, petalite, lepidolite, lithium-rich clays
The implementation schedule meets the criteria of first production of on-spec product in the first half of 2021. Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) will be undertaken using information gathered from the pilot plant.
This will determine the phasing, scale of growth and nominal capacity of the Arcadia project. The strategy for the phasing of development will be clarified with the capital expenditure (estimates from the FEED.
This represents one of many progress milestones that Prospect Resources has already posted in its quest to build the largest lithium mine in Zimbabwe and Africa.
Notably, this also demonstrates significant progress in the platinum dimension of the $12 billion industry target, where Prospect’s Arcadia is expected to be a significant contributor.
The US$12 billion mining industry represents a 344 percent increase from the US$2,7 billion exported in 2017. The multi-billion-dollar industry will be driven by gold, platinum, diamond, chrome, iron ore, coal, lithium, and other minerals.
Under the US$12 billion mining roadmap, gold is expected to contribute US$4 billion, platinum US$3 billion while chrome, iron, steel diamonds and coal will contribute US$1 billion.
Lithium is expected to contribute US$500 million while other minerals will contribute US$1,5 billion. Despite currently having a single producing lithium mine, Bikita Minerals, Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer and exporter of lithium.