Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe yesterday signed a $1 billion deal with Sinosteel Corp in a development that will see the Chinese firm building a 400 megawatt coal bed methane-fired power plant in Matabeleland North Province and setting up new ferrochrome smelters at Zimasco.
The investment, with potential to create nearly 25 000 jobs, will be implemented in phases.
The first phase involves the drilling of two Coal Bed Methane (CBM) wells at the Shangani grants to fire a 12MW pilot power station, President Mnangagwa told reporters at a signing ceremony.
Under the second phase, more productive wells will be drilled and a 400 MW plant set up.
Sinosteel agreed to build two ferrochrome smelters in Zvishavane and another one in Kwekwe, where it already operates the country’s largest ferrochrome plant.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando signed the deal on behalf of the Government, while the Chinese firm was represented by its president Andong Liu.
The signing ceremony was also witnessed by Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi as well as other senior Government officials.
Coal bed methane reserves were first discovered in Matabeleland North some decades ago, but commercial exploration has failed to take off due to lack of investment.
“We are gathered here today to witness our country taking massive strides to tap into coal bed methane industry,” President Mnangagwa said.
“As a country, we are endowed with a substantial number of minerals most of, which are still to be exploited including coal bed methane. The untapped sector presents unique and competitive investment opportunities.”
The electricity generated would be used by Zimasco’s chrome smelting operations with excess supplied to the national grid.
Apart from electricity generation, CBM can also be used in fertiliser and Liquefied Petroleum Gas production.
Mr Andong said the Chinese firm was looking at setting up three more furnaces to ramp up annual ferrochrome production to 300 000 tonnes in the next five years from 120 000 tonnes and 500 000 tonnes in the next decade.
The power plant would start operating in 2025.
President Mnangagwa said the signing of the agreement with Sinosteel, the majority shareholder in Zimasco, was testimony of his administration’s wilingness to open up the economy to investment and re-engage the global community to do business with Zimbabwe.
Over the past six months, President Mnangagwa’s administration attracted foreign direct investment commitments worth $11 billion in various economic sectors.
He said his Government would continue putting in place measures to facilitate the ease and cost of doing business.
“We will continue to review our processes of facilitating investment inflows,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said Government was at an advanced stage of setting up a one stop shop investment centre, which facilitates the ease of doing business and also cuts the amount of time required to register both foreign and local companies.