CAPE TOWN - Zimbabwe's mineral resources have a huge potential to drive the economy in the future, with lithium, gold and diamonds seen leading the way, its mines minister Winston Chitando said.

In a presentation to an annual conference on investing in African mining, running from February 5-8 in Cape Town, Chitando said the country had a diversified mineral endowment, with investment opportunities existing in exploration, mining, beneficiation and marketing.

"The country hosts some of the world's largest lithium deposits," Chitando said, citing Bikita Minerals in Zimbabwe's Masvingo province and the Arcadia Lithium project in Goromonzi among some projects that had come on stream.

Chitando indicated that Zimbabwe would announce a significant lithium deal soon.

Zimbabwe is trying to rebuild its economy, once one of the most promising in Africa but brought to its knees during a downturn triggered at the start of the new millennium when veteran former president Robert Mugabe clashed with key western donors over his human rights record and policies such as his controversial land reforms.

Zimbabwe's new government, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa who was sworn in last year after Mugabe relinquished his 37 year rule under military pressure, has sought to scale back some company ownership policies that had repelled foreign investors.

Now foreigners that had been limited to 49 percent ownership in mining concerns are allowed to own 100 percent for all minerals except diamonds and platinum, where the government or its entities must hold a majority stake.

"Progressive policy reviews across the entire economy are ongoing," Chitando said. "There is continuous review and improvement of ease of doing business."

Zimbabwe's mining sector is a cornerstone of the economy, accounting for over 13 percent of gross domestic product and more than 60 percent of its export earnings.

It attracts more than half of the foreign direct into the country, and employs more than 45,000 people directly.

Other than gold, diamonds and lithium, Zimbabwe also boasts large reserves of both thermal and coking coal, the second largest platinum group metals resource in the world, as well as nickel and  chrome.

- African News Agency (ANA)