The Arcadia lithium project is owned by Australian junior miner, Prospect Resources, and is considered to be one of the world’s biggest hard rock lithium resources and is reported to have a lifespan of 20 years.
Lithium is the lightest known metal and is used in the manufacture of aircraft and in certain batteries. It is now widely regarded as the new oil because of the advent of electric cars which are slowly taking off.
Lithium is also used in mental health. Lithium carbonate is a common treatment of bipolar disorder, helping to stabilise wild mood swings caused by the illness.
According to Mining Technology the Arcadia project is estimated to produce an average of 75 000 tonnes per annum of spodumene and 155 000 tonnes per annum of petalite concentrates.
Spodumene is an ore of lithium, but it is most highly prized as a gem material – the varieties Kunzite (pink) and Hiddenite (green) are especially sought after.
The lithium project is being developed in two phases, with the first phase involving the construction of the mine and the concentrator. The second phase will involve expansion of the mine site.
Conventional open-pit mining will be applied to the lithium project. Recovered ore will be processed at the Arcadia processing plant, which will use conventional dense media separation (DMS) and froth flotation technology.
The ore will be trucked to the crushing station, where it will be either dumped to the primary crusher or stockpiled. It will be crushed in a three-stage closed circuit and forwarded to the DMS for separating the rougher petalite and spodumene.
The rejects will be milled and passed to the flotation circuit to extract fine-grained petalite and spodumene. High-intensity gravity separation will be implemented to recover tantalum-bearing minerals.
The spodumene and petalite concentrates produced at the plant will be suitable for lithium carbonate conversion plants, which supply feed-stock to the lithium battery manufacturers, as well as the glass/ceramics markets.
Prospect Resources, which owns the Arcadia Lithium project, commissioned a lithium carbonate pilot plant in February 2018 to add further value to the lithia products produced from the Arcadia mine.
The plant is anticipated to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate from petalite ore. It is expected to ramp up to full production of 100kg a month in the second quarter of 2018.
Local Government Minister July Moyo said the lithium from Arcadia will be beneficiated locally and battery manufacturing factories are likely to be set up in the Midlands.
Lithium is currently being mined at Bikita Minerals and is exported.