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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sandawana Mine is back

By Kim Sibanda

Kuvimba Mining House is developing Sandawana Mine into a world-class, high-grade lithium deposit mine in the Mberengwa District, Midlands Province.

The mining lease and claim holdings cover a 21 km-long strip along the Mweza Mountain Range. The 3882 hectares are rich in vast mineral resources, including Tantalite, Mica, Emerald, and Gold.

Sandawana Mine commenced mining operations in the 1950s as an emerald mine. It has changed hands over its long history; previous owners include Rio Tinto.

Operations wound down in 2010 due to working capital challenges and a reduction in emerald resources. In 2019, Kuvimba Mining House (KMH), an investment and holding company of mining entities working in special minerals, energy minerals, and base metals acquired the asset. To date, KMH has injected a total of US$56 million to revive operations and explore for lithium and other mineral resources.

A four-phased extensive exploration program is underway to determine the lithium mineral resources and reserves. The exploration program encompasses other mineral resources, including beryllium, tantalite, and gold. Three exploration companies led by an international entity are currently on a fast-track exploration program with 33 drilling rigs on site.

The exploration companies will issue the first phase JORC report in August 2023. The exploration program is expected to establish a lithium resource of over 200 million tonnes of lithium ore at an average grade greater than 1.5%, making it the largest known resource in the region.

Lithium open-pit mining operations commenced in January 2023. To date, Sandawana Mine has mined and stockpiled over 600,000 tonnes of high-grade lithium ore, valued at over US$216 million. A large state-of-the-art laboratory has also been completed at the mine.
Lithium off-takers have been identified for the first 18 months, which will generate approximately USD 700 million in the next 18 months after the first phase of the road network has been rehabilitated.

When asked about the government’s drive for beneficiation of Lithium, Kuvimba Mining House Group CEO, Mr Simba Chinyemba commented that “Kuvimba Mining House is committed to raw materials’ beneficiation and value addition. To this end, feasibility studies for a 4.5 million floatation plant are underway which will produce 700,000MT of 6% concentrate. The plant is expected to be commissioned within 18 months. To achieve this, KMH is currently evaluating financing and technical arrangements with some of the world’s largest companies in the Lithium battery technology space. Discussions are at an advanced stage with at least 3 potential partners.”

While the discussions are highly confidential, it is expected that the Sandawana Mine’s valuation will range between US$2.5 billion to US$3 billion once fully operational.

The expected investment in Sandawana Mine shall bring various benefits to the local economy.

These include:
Creation of a new 35 km road and rehabilitation and asphalt surfacing of a road network of over 115km. Road construction will begin in August 2023.

· Feasibility studies for the construction of a 60 MW solar plant are also underway. The electricity produced from the plant will benefit the local communities as well. The peak capital investment demand for the plant construction project is approximately $300 million.

· Greater development in the Mberengwa district with increased social, economic, and physical infrastructure. Local communities primarily rely on geographically distant urban centers to access basic essential services. The resuscitation of the Sandawana Mine will ignite a hive of economic and social activities for both young and older locals, with the resuscitation of local shopping centers and inward migration of young people from across the province.

· Sandawana has already employed over 1,000 local people in the last three months after capital injection from Kuvimba Mining House. Greater employment is expected given the various projects mentioned above.

· Construction and development of a primary health care center in Mberengwa and a referral hospital for surrounding clinics. The company is negotiating with the Ministry of Health to capacitate the Sandawana Mine Clinic for locals. In addition, Kuvimba Mining House is also engaging national health partners to co-locate specialist services at the health care center in order to eliminate the travel burden for sick people in the region. The planned health interventions will also establish training facilities for local health professionals and enhance access to health care technology.

About Kuvimba Mining House

Kuvimba Mining House (Pvt) Ltd (KMH) is an investment and holding company of mining entities working in special minerals, energy minerals, and base metals. Its vision is to create a better future for Zimbabwe. It seeks to create shareholder value by developing the country’s natural resources. It aims to improve the livelihoods of Zimbabweans and sustain that improvement beyond generations. The company is owned by various entities controlled by the Government of Zimbabwe (65%) whilst 35% is in private hands and with the management control of the company. To its credit, KMH has acquired and turned around mines that are of strategic importance to the country including Freda Rebecca Gold Mine, Bindura Nickel Corporation and Zimbabwe Alloys. It is also the managing contractor for Ziscosteel.

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