ZIMASCO, a local ferro-chrome producer owned by China’s Sinosteel, has completed a feasibility study for the construction of furnaces in Neta, Mberengwa District, where it intends to build new mines, company spokesperson has said.
This comes after the company announced a US$35 million investment for the construction of new furnaces at its Kwekwe smelting complex as it seeks to ramp up production by 40 percent by end of next year. Initially, Zimasco had entered into a joint venture with Afrochine, another Chinese mining giant for the Neta project.
But it will now go it alone after Afrochine, a subsidiary of Tsingshan Holding Group, planning to develop an iron ore mine and a carbon steel plant in Zimbabwe pulled out.
Tsingshan signed a US$1 billion outline agreement with Zimbabwe in June 2018 to build a two million tonne-per-annum steel plant and has been carrying out exploration and seeking more mineral concessions.
A feasibility study for the Neta project has been done on the construction of 4 x 16,5 MVA furnaces, Ms Clara Sadomba, Zimasco spokesperson told The Herald Finance & Business. The furnaces will have the capacity to produce 160 000 tonnes per annum of ferrochrome.
“This project, which will be executed by Zimasco on its own and will also use the new technology to enable the furnaces to take the friable ore, which constitutes most of the Neta chromite ore resource,” said Ms Sadomba, adding that discussions were in progress with ZETDC for the provision of power for the new smelting complex.
“As soon as the required power is secured, the Neta project can commence,” she added.
Zimasco, alongside Afrochine, are Zimbabwe’s major producers of ferrochrome used in stainless steel production and hold large tracts of unexploited claims. The new Kwekwe furnaces will have the capacity of 72 000 tonnes per annum and will raise Zimasco’s ferrochrome production from the current 180 000 tonnes to 252 000 tonnes.
The project will also include the construction of a 300 000 tonne per annum sinter plant. The sinter plant will enable Zimasco to utilise its friable ore resource, which it has been unable to use because of the old technology at the existing chrome smelters. Zimasco has been leasing its three furnaces to South African firm, Portnex International.
Following the end of the Portnex lease at the end of 2020, two of the three west plant furnaces were being refurbished at a cost of about US$1,6 million, Ms Sadomba said. The work on furnace three is complete and this furnace will be switched on this month.
Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest reserves of high-grade chromium ore after South Africa, with deposits of about 10 billion tonnes, equivalent to around 12 percent of the global total, according to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines & Mining Development.
Last month the country banned export of raw chrome to encourage beneficiation. It has also issued vast tracts of land to investors intending to beneficiate chrome ore, in line with the country’s objective to generate US$12 billion from the sector by 2023. Herald