The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
CHINESE giant, Sinomine Resources Group, the new investor at Bikita Minerals has vowed to continue supporting the local community and ensure that more developmental projects are implemented.
The mine, which is one of the largest lithium producers in the world, was opened back in 1910 and has seen various ownership changes over the years, with the Sinomine Resource Group coming on board in January this year.
Bikita Minerals general-manager Mr David Mwanza said the investment brought about the expansion of the mine operations, increasing production output and construction of houses for the workers.
“Bikita Minerals was actually going towards the end of an ore body. An investment was needed in order to do exploration work and then opening up a new mine. Sinomine came in to assist and take over the project. Sinomine has injected and is preparing to spend money up to US$200 million in doing a lot of work to grow the mine,” he said.
He said at the start of the project there was so much uncertainty from the local community as to whether the new owners would be amenable to the community demands.
Much to their satisfaction, the mine management understood the need for community engagement in implementing such projects and consulted the local leadership.
Chief Marozva born Ishmael Mudhe in Bikita expressed satisfaction in the manner in which Sinomine has engaged with the local community.
“We do not have a problem with them. They approached us and together we carried out the environmental assessment, highlighting on some issues that needed adjustment and we both came to an agreement,” he said.
“Bikita Minerals has also capacitated the local community by giving them the dish scouring product for free, which they are packaging to sell and earn a living. The material is a waste product of lithium processing and it was realised that it had properties for scouring dishes and cleaning plates.”
Bikita Minerals quarry manager, Mr Victor Simango said over seven tonnes of the waste material was dumped every week at a specific area agreed on with the Chief so that the local community can have easy access.
“This action has been well-received as the community says they now get money for food, sending children to school as well as buying necessities through the selling of the product.”
In addition, the company has assisted in the construction of schools and clinics, with the recent project being the Shumbaimwe Clinic in Ward 11. The clinic, which is under Chief Marozva is a development that has come at a time the community had been walking long distances to get medical attention.
Bikita Minerals finance manager Ms Amanda Makausi said as part of the expansion project, Sinomine Resource Group had put together an additional US$20 million towards a 110km power line from minerals.
“The power line will have a capacity of 132kva, which will also be utilised by the local community. It is expected that in the coming year, the community will have access to electricity.”
She added that the new plant will result in staff complement increasing to over a thousand.
Ms Makausi said the mine currently has 400 workers, after starting the year with 300 and 70 percent of these employees are from within a 10 km radius of the mine.