Police Recover Lithium Earmarked For Smuggling
Masvingo (New Ziana) – Nearly 4 000 tonnes of lithium ore believed to have been destined for illegal export to neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique have been recovered in Masvingo’s industrial areas following the arrest of 17 suspected smugglers.
Police intercepted five trucks loaded with 3 700t of ground lithium ore at the site, which had lately been a hive of activity as the suspects prepared the government-controlled mineral for smuggling out of the country.
Officer commanding Masvingo police, senior assistant commissioner, David Mahoya confirmed the bust and said more information will be released when the law enforcement agents had established the source of the ore, believed to have come from different areas.
“We intercepted lithium ore which has been illegally acquired from a number of sources but mainly from Bikita Minerals. We got a tip off from responsible citizens and reacted quickly and intercepted the illegal dealers and miners,” he said.
“We are likely to charge those involved with theft of ore once we identify the sources. Those we have arrested are most likely able to help us with more information.
The suspects are in police custody while a heavy police cordon has been thrown around the site which had Lithium ore strewn all over the premises with warehouses, cleaning equipment and a mill believed to have been used to crush the ore for easier packaging. The heaps of ore at the secret warehouses had dates and grades marked with paint.
In December, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development banned the export of raw lithium in line with the beneficiation policy through Statutory Instrument (SI) 213 of 2022 gazette titled Base Minerals Export Control (Unbeneficiated Lithium Bearing Ores) Order, 2022.
The ban came at a time interest in lithium, used mostly to manufacture car batteries, has soared as the motoring industry fast moves towards development of electric vehicles.
The bust also comes at a time when cases of illegal dealers caught trying to smuggle lithium ore from the country into neighbouring Mozambique and South Africa are on the increase. Some of the ore recovered in Masvingo was found loaded on trucks believed to have been destined for South Africa.
Bikita Minerals in Masvingo has some of the largest deposits of Lithium in the country, and currently a Chinese investor has opened up more extraction points and ramped up production.
Mahoya said the suspects are likely to face a number of charges related to the contravention of the country’s mining laws, and theft if found to have obtained the ore from legal mining sites without permission.
Preliminary indications are that the suspects were using counterfeit permits to smuggle the mineral out of the country.
Source: New Ziana
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