The government of Zimbabwe has signed an agreement with China-based private company Tsingshan, to set up lithium mining and processing operations in the country.

According to Reuters, Tsingshan is one of the world’s top nickel producers, and is currently building a $1bn stainless steel plant in Zimbabwe.

The company also has a coking coal operation and a ferrochrome smelter in Zimbabwe, which is said to hold large-scale reserves of hard-rock lithium.

The current agreement will enable Tsingshan to increase its stainless steel and coke production to 5 million tonnes per annum for each commodity.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Reuters: “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.

“Tsingshan would also help Zimbabwe refurbish its railway system, which has suffered years of poor maintenance and under investment.”

Tsingshan’s is investment in Zimbabwe’s lithium sector follows the recent acquisition of lithium assets by Chinese companies Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine and Chengxin Lithium.

In August last year, Fortescue Metals has teamed up with Tsingshan to build a multi-billion-dollar industrial estate for metal smelting on Borneo Island in Indonesia.

The metal smelting facility, planned to be constructed near a hydropower plant, will host smelting operations of iron, nickel, and copper ores as early as 2023.

Tsingshan is expected to invest $30bn, and Fortescue Metals a $12bn in the project, according to Reuters’ report.