Zimbabwe is currently the sixth biggest producer of lithium worldwide and the largest in Africa, with production measuring 1,200 tons per year in 2021. The majority of production comes from the country’s biggest mine, the Bikita Mine, which is estimated to hold up to 11 million tons of lithium reserves. Other lithium projects in Zimbabwe include the Zulu project, the Arcadia project and the Kamativi project, with indicated resources of 20,1 million tons, 42.3 million tons and 26.3 million tons, respectively.
Despite only representing 1% of global lithium supply, Zimbabwe is projected to account for up to 20% with the start of the Arcadia mine, which holds the largest hard rock lithium reserves globally. For its part, the mine is anticipated to produce approximately 2.4 million tons of lithium ore over a 15-year lifespan.
While Namibia currently does not produce significant amounts of lithium, several developments underway in the country are set to position the country as a moderate to large-scale producer. Notable projects include the Helikon and Rubicon prospects, located in the central and southern regions of the country. The projects have an estimated resource of 7.72 million tons and 11.3 million tons, respectively, with the potential to produce a combined total of up to 680,000 tons of lithium concentrate per year.
Additionally, in 2022, Prospect Resources has commenced exploration activity at the Omaruru lithium prospect, a high potential project anticipated to reveal significant reserve quantities. With these developments, and the various others underway, the country is set to become a major producer and exporter.
Mali has significant potential as a lithium market due to recent significant finds and the commencement of mineral development plans. Although the country currently does not produce significant quantities of lithium, the Bougouni Lithium project is expected to reverse this trend. The Bougouni mine is the first large-scale lithium development in the country and is an open-pit mine with estimated resources of 21.3 million tons. Developed by Kodal Minerals, the Bougouni mine has a projected lifespan of 8.5 years, and as of December 2022, the company has made progress with plant engineering and environmental studies.
Additionally, Australian-based Leo Lithium is developing the Goulamina lithium project in Mali, the first hard rock lithium mine in West Africa. With estimated reserves of 108 million tons – the highest in the world – the mine life is projected to be 21 years, with production anticipated to start as early as 2024.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) represents the world’s largest producer of cobalt, the country’s lithium potential has also garnered the attention of global mining companies. The DRC’s potential as a lithium producer comes from its large deposits of lithium-bearing minerals including spodumene and petalite. Notable lithium projects underway include the Manono project, revealing up to 44.6 million tons of lithium reserves and developed by Dathcom Mining; the Zulu lithium project, with estimated resources of 11.7 million tons, developed by Frontier Lithium; and the Mavis Lake Lithium project, with estimated resources of 3.3 million tons, developed by International Lithium Corp.