The Sunday News
Rutendo Nyeve, Sunday News Reporter
THE country is making notable strides in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, increasing energy efficiency while reducing electricity utilisation at the back of world class innovations driven by value addition in the lithium mining and processing sector.
The country also generated US$209 million in export receipts from the mineral in the first nine months of the year and has vast potential to power the country’s future through exploitation of new opportunities. Innovations such as lithium powered locomotives as well as the advanced lithium loco conversion are among some of the world class innovations that are expected to be a game changer in the mining industry that will spur its production targets.
The developments are also going to respond to the rising pressure from regulators, investors, and customers to lower carbon emissions from operations, and most of the big players have already set ambitious targets to achieve carbon dioxide emission reductions in the shortest possible time.
One of the mining suppliers Shepco Fasteners’s group chief executive officer Mr Shepherd Chawira whose company exhibited a 10-tonne lithium battery-powered locomotive spoke on the new innovation saying it will result in an increase in production.
“We are displaying a 10-tonne lithium battery-powered locomotive. It is a new innovation. The locomotives that we manufacture and those that we have always supplied in the whole mining industry are lead acid battery-powered. This innovation has brought some changes and advantages that are going to result in an increased production.
“This is because with lead acid battery-driven locomotives, we usually have two batteries and as you do one shift you remove one battery and put it on charge and that will take you up to eight hours. However, with the lithium battery, one can charge it in about two hours. Once charged it can go up to about 20 to 24 hours without charge, meaning you can charge it once per two shifts or even say two days. Now that we’re charging it just for two hours once in 24 hours it means we are saving power which is in short supply in the country,” said Mr Chawira.
He said while the new innovation would reduce time in charging as well as improve efficiency, they were also looking at using the same technology in mine lighting.
“This is really going to improve production as there is no lost time in changing the battery as it operates with one battery. One can park it during blasting time and connect it on the charger and when a new shift comes in, the battery is fully charged. We are also looking at using the same technology on mine lighting,” said Mr Chawira.
Another local company P and R Hydraulics also exhibited another lithium powered locomotives which they say has loco conversion advantages. A technician from the company Mr Alpheus Zungu said although the technology has been used in other developed countries, Southern African countries were also developing such lithium powered innovations that are more efficient and reduce costs.
“In this lithium powered loco the only service items are gearbox grease and the only replacement items are disk brake pads. These are for the park and emergency brake. There are no brushes to wear out and the motor is more powerful, actually it is 30 percent more efficient. The motor regenerate power back into the batteries when slowing down thus re-charging itself,” said Mr Zungu.
Zimbabwe is among Africa’s largest lithium producers and is ranked fifth globally, which positions the country for an economic boom from the global drive towards a shift to battery-powered machines. Over the years, lithium has become a much sought-after mineral across the world as the automotive industry is shifting towards electric cars that among other valuables use lithium-ion batteries. — @nyeve14