Fortious Nhambura Business Reporter
A Chinese company, Afrochine Smelting (Pvt) Limited, is building a US$25 million chrome smelter in Selous near Chegutu that will see the country processing its chrome ore locally.
The smelter, nearing completion, will have an annual output of 50 000 tonnes of ferrochrome. The product already has a market in China.
The company is a subsidiary of Tsingshan Iron and Steel Group of China, the second largest stainless steel producer in that country.
Afrochine is operating under a five-year indigenisation exemption to allow the company to set up its plant and recoup its investment. It is Government policy that all foreign-owned companies should have the majority stake controlled by locals.
Company director Mr Benson Xu said the smelter would be running before mid next month as power utility Zesa Holdings had promised to connect the plant in the next two weeks.
“Smelting at the plant will commence in the next two or three weeks after power has been connected to the plant. We have already constructed the power line and are waiting for Zesa to put us on.
“The plant that has two furnaces with an annual output of 50 000 tonnes and will employ more than 300 workers. This is the first phase of the project. The second phase will see Afrochine Ltd increasing the number of furnaces but that depends on the availability of chrome resources,” he said.
Mr Benson said his company was attracted to Zimbabwe by its rich resources. The company is getting chrome ore from as far as Guruve that is processed before export to China.
“The company will surely increase output as there is a ready market in China. Our expansion project will depend on that availability of ferrochrome resources in the country. All conditions permitting we will commence the second phase of construction next year.
“Afrochine Ltd was attracted to invest in Zimbabwe’s mining sector by the quality of chrome ore in the country and the investment climate,” he said.
The Afrochine smelting plant is different to other smelting plants in Zimbabwe in that it has its own sintering plant which enables it to process alluvial (fine chrome). The sintering plant moulds the fine chrome into balls that can be taken to the furnaces.
It also has a de-dusting system that traps dust and toxic elements from the furnace to ensure that they are not released into the atmosphere and harm the environment.
Zimbabwe has the world’s largest chrome reserves still to be extracted. The investment in mining is a thumbs-up to Zimbabwe’s potential to attract investment in the mining sector.
Government has identified the mining sector as the backbone that can spearhead the revival of other sectors among them industry and agriculture.