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HARARE – Zimbabwe has signed an agreement with Tsingshan Holdings Group, which plans to set up lithium mining and processing operations in the southern African country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Tuesday.

Tsingshan, one of the world’s top nickel producers, is currently building a $1-billion stainless steel plant in Zimbabwe. The company also has a coking coal operation and a ferrochrome smelter in Zimbabwe, which has some of the world’s largest hard-rock lithium reserves.

Mnangagwa and Tsingshan’s founder, Chinese tycoon Xiang Guangda, oversaw the signing of an outline agreement for Tsingshan’s planned expansion projects in Harare on Tuesday.

“Tsingshan Holdings Group is set to expand its current operations. This will see the company embark on the production of cement and lithium concentrates, as well as scaling up coke and ferrochrome production among other mining and mineral processing projects in Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said during the signing ceremony.

The agreement would also see Tsingshan increase its stainless steel and coke production to five-million tonnes for each commodity annually. Mnangagwa said Tsingshan would also help Zimbabwe refurbish its railway system, which has suffered years of poor maintenance and under investment.

Tsingshan’s proposed investment in Zimbabwe’s lithium sector follows the recent acquisition of lithium assets by Chinese giants Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt 603799.SS, Sinomine Resource Group and Chengxin Lithium Group in transactions worth a combined $678-million.