George Maponga in Masvingo
Government has expressed satisfaction with progress towards resumption of operations at Shabanie- Mashava Mines (SMM) with asbestos production expected to start in July this year when de-watering of flooded shafts is expected to be complete.
Reconfiguration of machinery at the mine to enable it to process other minerals such as manganese, chrome and nickel was also underway amid revelations that dumps at firm’s mines in Mashava and Zvishavane were rich in those minerals.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Cde Winston Chitando yesterday told the media on the sidelines of a provincial conference on devolution, that SMM revival was on track.
He said Government was no longer pouring additional money in the asbestos miner as the firm was now self-sustaining.
“Limited resumption of operations at SMM is now expected in July this year because we had challenges in de-watering the flooded shafts.
“We discovered that the amount of water in the shafts was more than we anticipated but we are happy that de-watering is going on and we should be done before the re-start of operations in July,” he said.
“At the moment there is some small-scale activity that is taking place because we discovered that dumps at the firm’s mines were actually very rich in other minerals such as chrome, manganese and a little bit of nickel. It is just like the PGMs (platinum group of metals) where you find several minerals such as palladium and others that is with SMM mines.”
“The company’s prcessing plants will be re-configured to produce other minerals other than asbestos and the reconfiguration exercise will be done using revenue generated by the company from ongoing operations. Government will not put any additional money in SMM,” said Cde Chitando.
Government last year announced it had poured $20 million towards the resuscitation of mining operations at SMM.
The company owns asbestos mines in Zvishavane and at King Mine in Mashava which are currently being de-watered after flooding of the shafts which occurred when operations ceased around 2007.
SMM is believed to be sitting on asbestos deposits worth more than US$1 billion and after re-opening the firm’s mines will produce about 75 000 tonnes of high-grade fibre mostly for export.
President Mnangagwa toured SMM’s King Mine in July last year which kick-started the process to re-open the mothballed mine which used to be the lifeblood of the mining town of Mashava.