EMA shuts down Bikita Minerals new spodumene plant

EnviroPress Reporter

The Bikita Minerals new spodumene plant (pictured) which was commissioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 29 November, 2023, has been closed on the orders of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and other arms of the state allegedly for wanton violation of many environmental rules, and for many other compliance violations.

The massive spodume plant, which the mining company constructed in record 12 months at a reported cost of US$300 million, was closed yesterday, May 16, 2024.

Sources at the mine said the company had embarrassed the President and abused his goodwill beyond measure by doing exactly what he spoke against at the launch of the spodumene plant only six month ago.

EnviroPress made several efforts to seek mine spokesperson Collen Nikisi’s comment, but he kept prevaricating until he stopped taking calls. At several moments, he claimed that he was not aware of the developments as he had not been at work for two days, and that he was on his way back to work but sources said those were all lies.

Similarly, EMA Masvingo provincial head Milton Muusha made many false promises to provide a comment until he stopped taking calls altogether.

Sources told EnviroPress that the authorities had initially ordered the closure of the plant a day before, but mining authorities, led by the Head of Human Resources and Administration Rui Li, had desperately pleaded for 10 more hours which he claimed the machinery needed to safely stop.

The new plant is said to be polluting Matezva Dam with dangerous chemicals and is failing to implement procedural blasting measures.

Pollution of the dam is affecting people in such places as Beardmore because the quality of their sources of water is now questionable.

When blastings are done at the open cast spodumene pits, residents in nearby houses are told to temporarily leave.

Tonne per tonne, pure spodumene has 57% more lithium than petalite, and it naturally fetches more on the international commodities markets than petalite, the other grade of lithium-bearing mineral produced by Bikita Minerals.

Speaking while commissioning the plant, President Mnangagwa said his government would not allow environmental malpractice by mining companies.

“We will, therefore, continue to exercise good stewardship over the many natural resources in our country by ensuring that stakeholders in the sector practice responsible mining that guarantees environmental sustainability.

“To date the, the Responsible Mining Initiative launched by my administration has prioritised environmental matters, and scaled up the protection of our natural ecosystems and resources for both present and future generations,” President Mnangagwa said.

On May 15, 2023, operations across the whole mine were stopped for one week following a government directive that the company must close over a litany of offences including labour malpractices, employment of illegal Chinese immigrants and poor administrative procedures leading to smuggling.