CHIEF Jahana Khumalo of Insiza in Matabeleland South has written to President Emmerson Mnangagwa demanding an immediate end to lithium and tantalum explorations in Fort Rixon.
The traditional leader argues the explorers were given the green light to carry out geological explorations by the government without being consulted, and work should only commence after the local community has agreed to the controversial project.
The scathing letter was also copied to Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Philip Valerio Sibanda and all chiefs in Matabeleland North and South provinces.
Chief Jahana also cited past correspondence sent to Mnangagwa by now late defiant Chief Maduna who raised objections over almost similar issues and was met with state hostility.
“When the last Honourable Chief Maduna raised similar concerns and reservations about the issuance of mining EPOs (Exclusive Prospecting Orders) across Matabeleland to your office without following due processes and procedures, he was trailed by unregistered vehicles and intimidated by unknown individuals, thus the response he got from his letter to your office until he died.
“I pray that with contents of this letter, I will not face the same fate as Chief Maduna,” the traditional leader notes.
He added: “It is exactly 42 months after you promised not to mortgage the future of Zimbabwe, but the situation in my area proves to you otherwise. Mining EPOs are issued by your office after you have commented hence this letter to you.
“Mr. President take note the due process of issuing lithium exploration EPOs at Fort Rixon which is in our area of jurisdiction with Chief Sibasa was not followed.
“As chiefs who are custodians of the area, we only read about this mining venture in our area from state media.
“We want to make it very clear that we as Chiefs, including our subjects, were not consulted directly or indirectly because your Ministry of Mines did not bother to consult us which is a strong sign of failure to the foundation of the new dispensation – Servant Leadership.”
In March this year, the government granted EPO to UK-based Premier African Minerals over an area comprising the Zulu Lithium and Tantalum claims (Zulu) in the Fort Rixon district.
The EPO is valid for three years.
Premier African Minerals chief executive George Roach said the company planned to start the definitive feasibility study (DFS) on the Zulu deposit and complete it in 14 months.
The company said the EPO area held further known lithium-bearing pegmatites, which offered upside to Zulu, as well as historic small gold mines and potential molybdenite.
“Since the maiden Mineral Resource Estimate, the geological model has been optimised as at least six new zones of lithium mineralisation have been discovered, supporting an exploration target of up to 80 million tonnes,” Roach said.
“Test work conducted by Anzaplan in Germany on behalf of Premier confirmed that low iron spodumene concentrates of up to 6.5% contained lithium equivalent was attainable and an independent scoping study prepared by Bara Consulting for Zulu was most encouraging.
“The granting of the EPO reaffirms the Zimbabwean Government policy that Zimbabwe is open for business and further supports the Ministry of Mines policy of creating a US$12 billion mining economy by 2023.”
The most important use of lithium is in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, and electric vehicles. Lithium is also used in some non-rechargeable batteries for things like heart pacemakers, toys, and clocks.
Tantalum is used in the electronics industry for capacitors and high-power resistors. It is also used to make alloys to increase strength, ductility, and corrosion resistance. The metal is also used in dental and surgical instruments and implants, as it causes no immune response.