Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe’s ferrochrome producers Zimasco and Afrochine Smelting, have entered into a joint venture to build four chrome smelters in Mberengwa in the Midlands Province, spokesperson for Zimasco, Ms Clara Sadomba said yesterday.
Zimasco, a unit of Chinese-owned Sinosteel and Afrochine are the country’s largest ferrochrome producers with combined operational capacity of 350 000 tonnes.
The planned investments dovetail with the Government thrust of value adding minerals to boost revenues, encourage the establishment of new businesses and to create employment. Zimbabwe generates about 65 percent of export revenues from minerals, which are exported either in their raw or semi-processed form.
“Plans to establish a 4 x 16,5 MVA ferrochrome smelting complex with a capacity to produce 140 000 tonnes per annum of ferrochrome are at an advanced stage,” said Ms Sadomba.
The smelting complex will be built at Neta in Mberengwa. This project will is expected to start next year.
The first furnace is expected to be commissioned in 2021, followed by the commissioning of the second plant in 2022 and finally, the fourth furnace in 2023.
Ms Sadomba said apart from the new Neta smelting complex, Zimasco will also build a sixth smelter at its Kwekwe smelting complex.
“Most of the material required to build a sixth furnace at the Kwekwe smelter is on site,” said Ms Sadomba.
This will be a 30 MVA furnace with a capacity to produce 55 000 tonnes per annum.
However, priority would be given to commissioning the Neta furnace ahead of the Kwekwe furnace as they are situated at the ore source and will be more cost effective to operate.
The Kwekwe sixth furnace is expected to come on line in 2024. The Zimasco Kwekwe smelter has an operational capacity of 180 000 tonnes of ferrochrome per year.
Zimbabwe has 15 ferrochrome operations concentrated mainly in the Midlands Province.
Being host to an estimated 12 percent of the global chromite resources and production currently contributing less than 3 percent to global output, the Zimbabwean chrome ore industry has significant potential for growth going forward.
Zimbabwe holds the world’s second largest known chrome ore deposits, after South Africa.
Global chrome ore resources are estimated in excess of 12 billion tonnes, according to Roskill Chromium Global Industry Outlook 2018. Last year the mineral was one of the top six commodities that contributed the bulk of Zimbabwe’s export earnings alongside platinum and gold, diamonds, nickel and coal.