Zimbabwe’s decision to ban raw lithium exports and encourage local processing is helping Chinese and western companies gain a foothold in its mining industry — but is putting local players at a competitive disadvantage. Global players have rushed to close deals since the unexpected ban was announced in December. The most likely winners of Zimbabwe’s push to move up the value chain are Chinese companies, who already control 60% of the world’s lithium processing capacity; they are most able to take advantage of Zimbabwe’s new push by building production facilities near the mines. Zimbabwean companies will have much less control over the lithium processing that takes place here. Local producers will find it difficult to take advantage of the opportunities without special dispensation by the government or by working together to access funding, said experts.