Mapinga industrial park to enhance beneficiation drive
Farirai Machivenyika-Senior Reporter
CONSTRUCTION of the first phase of the Mapinga Mines Energy Industrial Park in Mashonaland West Province is set to commence in the first quarter of next year as Government forges ahead with plans to enhance local beneficiation and value addition of minerals.
The industrial park, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, will be established after Government and two Chinese investors, Eagle Canyon International Group Limited and Pacific Goal Investment, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September last year for the construction of the project that will ultimately be valued at US$13 billion on completion.
The project will be established on a 5 000-hectare piece of land in Mapinga, along the Harare-Chinhoyi Road.
It is expected to boost the economy through beneficiation of minerals like lithium, chrome and nickel and support the clean energy drive.
Yesterday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Zhemu Soda toured the proposed site of the project together with officials from various ministries and departments that are part of the inter-ministerial committee involved in its establishment.
Minister Soda said the first phase, which will cost US$2,3 billion, includes the construction of power plants with a generation capacity of 600MW, lithium sulphate refinery (battery grade lithium), graphite refinery, nickel chromium alloy refinery and nickel sulphate refinery. This will commence in the first quarter of next year.
“The land that is required for the project is 5 000 hectares. I am happy today from the discussions we have held, the investor indicated that for the first developments, land of the size of 1 000ha would be required immediately. The Ministry of Lands, (Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development) has assured us that the land will be availed immediately and some work will soon commence. Our target is to have some construction on site beginning the first quarter of 2024.
“Some work is being done; consultations with the traditional leaders who are the custodians of the land and also the current land occupiers who are being affected by the project, are being done with a view to relocating them and free the land” said Minister Soda.
“We have farmers that have been occupying the land together with some mining claim holders who will also be affected by the project. Some considerations are being done to see how they will be taken care of within the project so that as the project develops, they are also not deprived.”
Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Marian Chombo said there were about 109 mining titles that would be affected in the area, 32 A2 farmers and 66 families that had settled illegally on the land earmarked for the project.
“While we are doing all this, we have to take cognisance of that,” she said.
A representative of the investors, Mr Lionel Mhlanga, said consultations with relevant stakeholders were ongoing.
“This project is not here to inconvenience people and should that happen, they should be compensated fully and to that end, an exercise to value developments on the affected people was conducted and total figures released and shared with us by the compensation and evaluation committee.
“Technical processes on the affected farmers were also done as well as resettlement target areas. The new energy park promoters have undertaken to fund the compensation of existing farmers in the concession area as well as their relocation,” said Mr Mhlanga.
Phase 2 of the project will include the construction of new energy downstream industries like battery manufacturing, wind turbines manufacturing, solar panels and inverters, among others.
“Our company is at various stages of mine exploration and development; these mines will form part of the feed into our refineries.
“The refineries will, however, be available to beneficiate products from other producers of raw ore,” Mr Mhlanga said.
In his remarks, Chief Chidziva reiterated the importance of consulting traditional leaders.
“It’s not that we are against the project, but it is important that you follow our customs and consult us before you do anything,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Professor Obert Jiri said they had served affected farmers with withdrawal letters.
“The major areas that are going to be affected are on the southern part (of the concession land) and we have served all those farmers with their withdrawal letters,” he said.
Prof Jiri said they had identified land to resettle the farmers but urged them to also consider being part of the industrial park project in various capacities.
Over 20 companies from China with an annual turnover exceeding US$40 billion have already shown interest in investing in the industrial park.
Commissioning the Bikita Minerals’ Spodumene and Palatine plants, which will add value to lithium ore, last week, President Mnangagwa said gone were the days when the country used to export its minerals in their raw form, thus losing huge revenues to foreign countries.
He said the milestone achieved by Bikita Minerals must be emulated by other mining companies to consolidate the gains made in the critical sector.
“The increased beneficiation of our abundant natural resource endowment does not only relate to players in the lithium sector but across the entire mineral value chain.
“I challenge all mining houses to adhere to agreed roadmaps to enable the establishment of more precious metal refineries and the local manufacturing of finished goods from our vast minerals. This has become urgent, given the need to de-risk our mining sector from global shocks and mineral price volatility”.