Tanzania set to ban raw lithium exports as of May 2024

By John Muchira in Nairobi November 3, 2023

Tanzania, determined to increase earnings from its vast deposits of lithium, a key element in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, has announced plans to ban unrefined exports of the mineral as of 2024.

Media outlet The Africa Report quoted a letter to miners stating that lithium stakeholders must have plants for refining inside Tanzania in order to increase the value of the minerals by at least 5% for export licences to be granted. The letter, dated June 8, stated that the measure will take effect on May 31, 2024.

Tanzania, which has seen an increasing number of foreign companies flock to the country to carry out the exploration of lithium, joins fellow African countries Zimbabwe, Namibia and Ghana in demanding domestic refining.

The Africa Report quoted Mark van den Arend, chairman of StraMin, which acts as an intermediary buyer of minerals from small and medium-sized (SME) miners in the East African country, as saying that requiring lithium value addition is “the right strategy” for Tanzania, adding it would be no surprise if the requirement is extended to include other minerals.

Van den Arend, a former Deutsche Bank executive now based in Frankfurt, set up StraMin this year. It focuses on buying copper, beryllium, nickel, graphite, lithium, cobalt, coltan and tin at cost price from miners, who then share in the resale profits. StraMin has exclusive offtake rights with miners holding 70 primary licences in Tanzania.

Aggregation of SME output makes the operations more attractive to international buyers and investors, and “empowers” small-scale miners, Van den Arend told The Africa Report, adding, “people underestimate the relevance of the SME mine sector.”

Lithium is a key element in the manufacture of modern batteries used in emerging technologies – including lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles – and is considered a critical mineral in clean energy transition.

US firm Titan Lithium Inc and Australian multinationals Liontown Resources and Cassius Mining Ltd are some of the foreign companies that made significant lithium discoveries in the Tanzania.

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