Premier wants to resolve lithium supply spat with China’s Canmax

HARARE : Premier African Minerals wants to resolve its lithium supply dispute with China’s Canmax Technologies, the miner said on Friday, seeking to avert a lengthy legal battle that could disrupt operations.

On Wednesday, the Chinese company said it would terminate the deal after Premier missed a May 2023 deadline to start delivering spodumene concentrate, a raw material for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, citing a defect at its Zulu processing plant in Zimbabwe.

London-listed Premier was supposed to deliver 48,000 metric tons of lithium concentrate per year under the offtake deal, but issued a force majeure notice to Canmax on June 25, blaming the delay on its recently assembled plant.

“The group will use its reasonable endeavours to work with Canmax during the period of force majeure to seek a remedy. Premier remains committed to an equitable solution,” Premier said.

Any dispute relating to the offtake agreement will have to be resolved through arbitration in Singapore and could take more than 12 months to resolve, Premier said. It added that failure to resolve the dispute threatened the future of its operations.

Apart from the offtake deal, Canmax also bought a 13.14 per cent stake in Premier last year, making it the single biggest shareholder.

Premier is one of several Zimbabwe-focused miners that have recently attracted investment from Chinese battery materials firms seeking lithium assets.

Chinese firms including Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group, Chengxin Lithium Group, Yahua Group and Canmax have spent more than $1 billion over the past two years to acquire and develop lithium projects in Zimbabwe.

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