AFRICA’S geological richness and abundant natural resources have positioned the continent as an attractive investment destination. As the demand for minerals like lithium surges due to clean energy technologies, Africa is witnessing the emergence of large-scale projects aiming to establish itself as a global lithium hub and capitalise on the energy transition trends.
Among the notable lithium projects in Africa are:
- Goulamina Mine, Mali: With the distinction of being West Africa’s first hard rock lithium mine, the Goulamina mine near Mali’s capital city, Bamako, is one of the world’s largest spodumene projects. Developed by Leo Lithium, a joint venture between Ganfeng, a global lithium chemical producer, and Firefinch (formerly Birimian), the mine is progressing well in its 27-month development program. The first concentrate is targeted for early 2024, and the project is fully funded for its initial stage, aiming to produce 506,000 tons per annum (tpa) of concentrate. The second stage targets a production capacity of 831,000 tpa.
- Manono Mine, DRC: Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Manono Mine is an open-pit project with an estimated 93 million tons of reserves. The mine’s development began following the release of a scoping study in 2018. Initially targeting 410,000 tpa of lithium concentrate, revised studies have increased the production target to approximately 700,000 tpa. AVZ Minerals, the mine’s developer, announced the commencement of early works in 2022, with first spodumene concentrate planned for late 2023, although disputes over ownership have caused delays.
- Bikita Mine, Zimbabwe: Situated in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province, the Bikita Mine boasts the world’s largest-known lithium deposit, with reserves totalling 11 million tons. The mine has been in operation for six decades and remains the only major producing lithium mine in Africa. It has been producing an average of 60,000 tpa since 1950. Sinomine Resource Group, the mine’s operator, announced plans in 2023 to increase lithium concentrate production to approximately 412,000 tons per year following a $200 million investment announced the previous year.
- Arcadia Mine, Zimbabwe: The Arcadia Mine, located near Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, holds the world’s largest hard rock lithium resources. Acquired by China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt from Australia’s Prospect Resources in 2022 for $422 million, the open-pit mine has an estimated production capacity of 400,000 tpa of lithium concentrate over an 18-year mine life. Huayou initiated trial production in March 2023.
- Ewoyaa Mine, Ghana: Positioned approximately 100km southwest of Accra, the Ewoyaa Mine is Ghana’s first lithium-producing mine. Atlantic Lithium is developing the project to exploit the Ewoyaa, Abonko, and Kaampakrom deposits in Western Ghana. A pre-feasibility study conducted in September 2022 indicated a mine life of 12.5 years and an initial capital investment of $125 million. With an estimated 18.9 million tons of probable ore, first production is slated for Q3 2024, with output reaching up to 225,000 tpa.
These ambitious lithium projects in Africa showcase the continent’s potential to become a key player in the global lithium market, capitalising on its resources and contributing to the growing demand for clean energy technologies.