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Ferrochrome benchmark price settles higher

Already at an advanced stage of consideration are alternative technologies for producing electricity from off-gas generated as part of the ferrochrome production process, as well as a combination of solar and wind projects that include on-site behind-the-meter projects as well as off-site wheeling projects.

The European benchmark ferrochrome price for the second quarter of this year has been settled at $1.52/lb, 5.6% up on the first three months of 2024.

Zimbabwe holds the second-largest known chrome ore reserves after South Africa, with approximately 900 million tonnes of untapped ore, which is about 12 percent of the global total, smelted to produce ferrochrome, a raw material used in stainless steelmaking.

Chrome miners in Mhondoro, Zimbabwe are selling their chrome at US$56 per tonne for grades around 45 percent.

In other districts of Zimbabwe, miners are selling their chrome at US$48 per tonne for grades below 40 percent, then US$65 per tonne for grades above 40 percent. There are however, some dealers paying between US$70 – US$80 per tonne.

Ferrochrome is a prime ingredient of stainless steel and most of the ferrochrome produced in South Africa is consumed by China, which is the world’s biggest producer of stainless steel

Basically, the latest European benchmark ferrochrome price is back to the $1.53/lb it was for the fourth quarter of 2023.

Neighbouring South Africa holds about 70% of the world’s total reserves of chrome, the key element of ferrochrome, a corrosion-resistant chrome and iron alloy.

Ferrochrome is energy intensive and poor electricity supply from South Africa’s State power utility Eskom has curtailed the local ferrochrome business and boosted the exportation of raw chrome to particularly China, which has gained major ferrochrome market share as a result.

Already at an advanced stage of consideration are alternative technologies for producing electricity from off-gas generated as part of the ferrochrome production process, as well as a combination of solar and wind projects that include on-site behind-the-meter projects as well as off-site wheeling projects.

Negotiations for some of these are heading for financial close in the first half of this year.

Decarbonisation commitments are in place that will result in greener ferrochrome being produced in the future.

With adequate clean energy, Mining Weekly postulates that South Africa could potentially regain a far stronger position in ferrochrome manufacturing.

Already its closed furnaces reduce carbon emissions and elevate efficiency amid a history of 80% of value creation, including jobs, in the chrome value chain being created by ferrochrome producers. Many jobs could be regained by competitively producing and exporting more ferrochrome produced from South Africa’s chrome.

Market share was lost despite the private sector’s significant investment in expanding local beneficiation capacity. This was the result mainly of the public sector failing to provide the required volume of electricity at a competitive price.

A competitive environment needs to be created to maximise the use of existing ferrochrome capacity.

In the 12 months to December 31, Merafe reported lower ferrochrome production.

The main focus of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Merafe is the 20.5% participation by wholly owned subsidiary, Merafe Ferrochrome and Mining, in the earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortisation of the Glencore-Merafe venture, in which Glencore has a 79.5% participation. – (Mining Weekly) edited by Mining Index

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