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Afrochine makes US$1,5bn fresh move

A CHINESE resources giant has secured exclusive rights to establish an integrated chrome mining and processing operation in Chivhu, giving Zimbabwe fresh impetus to achieve an ambitious plan to attain a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023.

Afrochine Smelting, which has a huge presence on Zimbabwe’s chrome fields, on Friday said the operation would sit on 2 000 hectares of land.

This will comprise a 1,5 kilometre long and 600 metre wide processing plant and mines. Altogether the operation will turn over at least US$1,5 billion per annum.

Afrochine, Zimbabwe’s largest chrome smelting operation, is a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Tsingchan Holdings, which accounts for 25% of global steel production. Work on the multi-million-dollar steel and ferrochrome operation is due to start next month, officials said. During a tour of the proposed site of the giant operation, Afrochine said it was determined to roll out a ferrochrome facility three times bigger than the Midlands-based Zimasco, Zimbabwe’s biggest chrome processor.

Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando said government had mobilised key State agencies to work around the clock and ensure a flawless decision-making process for the project to be delivered timeously.

“The idea is to have an area of about 2 000 hectares where a number of things will happen,”Chitando said.

“The first is the carbon steel plant, which is about one-and-half kilometres, Next to it will be a ferrochrome plant which will generate 500 000 tonnes of ferrochrome. Those who know Zimasco, Zimasco does around 150 000 tonnes. So this will be three times the size of Zimasco. Then there is an iron ore mine and iron ore plant. The total turnover of this whole project will be US$1,5 billion, bigger than Zimplats and any other project you can think of. That is really the grant plan,” Chitando added.

Afrochine managing director Benson Xu said discussions were underway to establish a dedicated power supply line and railway line for the project. A dam may also be constructed in the area.

Rail will be crucial for shipping coal from Hwange to the operation.

Last week’s tour which included Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Aplonia Munzverengi, came a few weeks ahead of Tsingchan chairman Xiang Guangda’s planned visit to Zimbabwe for commissioning of the project. Guangda will be part of the commissioning of two furnaces in Selous, while the second programme will be in Hwange to commission the 150 000-tonne coke battery and groundbreaking for another 150 000-tonne plant.

The fourth programme will entail signing of a memorandum of understanding for the full implementation of the Chivhu project.

Munzverengi said the project would transform Chivhu into a vibrant business hub for the province.

“I believe they had already planned for a town in Chivhu area for their employees and other developments,” Munzverengi said.

“What we want to see is for Chivhu to grow. We do not have enough space here for accommodation, for recreational and other facilities. These are the issues that we will now discuss, to see their plan and what else they can do apart from mining and processing,” she added. Newsday

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