A Chinese mining company opened a 300 million dollar lithium processing plant in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.
The southern African country has one of the world's largest reserves of the metal and has the largest reserves in Africa.
Global demand for lithium has surged in recent years because of its use in electric car batteries. As a result, Zimbabwe has drawn investors in battery minerals from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, although China remains the dominant player.
The new plant opened by Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe, an arm of Chinese company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, has a capacity to process 4.5 million metric tons of hard rock lithium into concentrate for export per year, according to Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa was present for the official opening of the plant in Goromonzi, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.
Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe deputy general manager Trevor Barnard said that the firm aims to start by processing 450,000 tons of concentrate every year.
The concentrate will be further processed into battery-grade lithium outside Zimbabwe.