The Moti Group suspected that there was no lithium in the concession areas in Zimbabwe, but still announced the launch of a billion-dollar plant
South African company Moti Group said it plans to build a billion-dollar lithium-ion battery plant in Zimbabwe.
At the same time, judging by the leak of internal data, management doubted the deposits, but still attracted a large Chinese investor to cooperate.
- Based on leaked audio recordings of telephone conversations, Moti Group management suspected that the Zimbabwean deposits for which it had received concessions were likely to have no lithium.
- In their reports on the possible value of the deposits, the consultants relied on very few facts.
- Despite the leaked data, Moti Group recently announced plans to begin mining and build a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant, creating jobs in Zimbabwe.
- Despite mixed forecasts for the deposits, Moti Group has entered into an agreement with a Chinese investor to conduct geological exploration.
- The South African conglomerate’s founder Zunaid Moti rejected the leaked data and said he “continues to believe” in the project.
Below is a summary and overview of the main findings of the investigation. Read the main version in English Here.
The CEO of Moti Group argued that the construction of the plant will benefit the Zimbabwean economy
In May 2023, South African company Moti Group announced that it planned to mine lithium in Zimbabwe and build a lithium-ion battery plant with a Chinese partner.
In a sponsored article on a South African news site, Moti Group CEO Dondo Mogajane said the project would benefit Zimbabwe’s economy and the plant would create jobs for impoverished local workers.
But among themselves, Moti Group executives discussed that there were hardly any significant lithium deposits in the concession areas. This is evidenced by recordings of telephone conversations obtained by journalists.
The data leak from the South African conglomerate’s headquarters in Johannesburg included a recording of a telephone conversation that took place in September 2022 between the company’s founder Zunaid Moti and an executive. In a conversation about concession areas, Moti is heard saying that there is nothing there.
Seeking to capitalize on the growing popularity of electric vehicles, Moti Group entered into multiple lithium exploration and mining concession agreements with Zimbabwe in 2018 and 2019. Lithium is a key element in batteries used in electric vehicles. There is demand for it all over the world.
Moti Group, even before geological exploration, had research results that most likely did not contain lithium in the areas
In 2022, the Chinese company Yibin Tiani Lithium Industry Co. (a subsidiary of the world’s largest supplier of electric vehicle batteries, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co.) has agreed to buy 20 percent of Pulserate Investments, a subsidiary of Moti Group in Zimbabwe.
The purchase agreement, which was concluded in May 2022, states that Pulserate will be responsible for exploration, production and processing of raw materials, and the Chinese investor will have the option to buy another 50 percent of the company based on exploration results.
The agreement was leaked from Moti Group by amaBhungane, OCCRP’s South African media partner. The data included audio recordings of telephone conversations, corporate documents and correspondence, which indicate that Moti Group, even before conducting geological exploration, received research results indicating that there were no significant lithium deposits in the concession areas.
“These allegations raise questions about the Moti Group and its activities and how legitimate it is,” said Karam Singh, executive director of South African nonprofit Corruption Watch.
In response to questions sent by email, Moti Group said that geologists from Yibin Tiani Lithium Industry Co. “unhindered access has been provided to the entire territory in which Pulserate operates.”
“The value of what is in the Pulserate areas can only be ascertained after proper mapping, excavation, drilling and analysis,” Moti Group said.
Representative of Yibin Tiani Lithium Industry Co. declined to answer detailed questions about the agreement signed with Moti Group, but said the company no longer holds a stake in Pulserate. The Moti Group told reporters that the deal was restructured, and instead of Yibin Tiani Lithium Industry Co. now its management company, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., is speaking, but journalists’ questions were not answered.