The Zimbabwe Republic Police has intercepted trucks with lithium ore in Mutoko at a time all exports of lithium ore and inadequately processed lithium are now banned to promote value addition and beneficiation of the mineral.
The intercepted loads are stored at Mutoko Central Police Station, according to The Herald.
The publication did not disclose the quantity of lithium that was in the trucks.
The government recently claimed that potential revenue was being lost with illegal lithium mining and smuggling.
Lithium is processed in several steps with most global trade in lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide since the actual metal is highly reactive and bursts into flame on contact with water or in moist environments and corrodes very quickly in the air.
Mutoko villagers are reportedly selling lithium ore for between US$15 to US$20 per wheelbarrow load, or US$100 per tonne, to middlemen who would resell it for US$350 to US$450 a tonne.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura who toured some of the sites of illegal lithium mining in Mutoko said Government never issued a lithium licence.
Kambamura said registering a lithium claim was no guarantee of being allowed to mine and sell it since partial processing of a minimum level is now required. He said:
For one to mine, we need to know your beneficiation plant in line with NDS1 where Government is encouraging local value addition and beneficiation. So, as Government we need to stamp our authority at the roots so that we deal with the main problem of illegal export or smuggling of lithium.
Currently there is a lot of illegal lithium mining especially in this region because of near surface lithium ore. Despite Government banning export of lithium ore, there is still plenty of lithium mining happening with buyers all over.
We do not know where they are taking that lithium after the ban. If they are buying lithium illegally which means they are also exporting that lithium illegally which is smuggling.
Some reports suggest that the Chinese and Indians are the main buyers of lithium.