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Zimbabwe banned the exports of raw lithium, an important component in electronic batteries, as the government seeks to develop its own processing and battery industry in-country, Business Insider South Africa reported.
The ban would require mining companies to either set up local processing plants or show “exceptional circumstances” before moving lithium out of the country. Any export of lithium will require government permission.
The move also aims to stop artisanal miners, who have targeted abandoned mines in search of the high-priced metal. Zimbabwean officials lamented that the country has lost $1.8 billion in mineral revenues because of smuggling and artisanal mining, according to the South China Morning Post.
The decision will also affect many Chinese companies that have invested in lithium mining in Zimbabwe, as they will need to build processing facilities there at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars so they can export higher-value lithium chemicals.
In the last two years, lithium prices have risen by nearly 1,100 percent to a record high, with supply straining to keep up with rising demand.
Zimbabwe is believed to hold the largest unexploited reserves of lithium in Africa and is the sixth-largest producer in the world.
Even so, the southern African nation has remained behind in production and only makes one percent of the global output, slightly behind Brazil.