13 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Chinese Firm to Invest U.S.$2 Million in Chrome Smelter

CHINESE firm Afrochine Smelting is set to invest about US$2 million in the construction of two chrome smelters in Zimbabwe.

The first phase targeted to produce 40 000 tonnes of ferrochrome annually would be constructed in Selous.

The company yesterday said the project would require 100 000 tonnes of chrome ore and 24 000 tonnes of coke annually.

"Most of the raw materials for the processing of ferrochrome, including chrome and coke, are readily available in Zimbabwe," the company said.

Chrome smelting facilities process chrome ore into high-carbon ferrochrome, low-carbon ferrochrome and ferrosilicon chrome.

According to the company, the initial phase of the project will employ about 300 people.

Afrochine has invited interested parties to a public hearing ahead of the construction of the smelters.

But as part of the due diligence process and compliance with Zimbabwean environmental laws, the company has hired Tailjet Company to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment of the project.

The proposed investment comes after the Chrome Producers' Association has engaged SMS Siemag of Germany to conduct feasibility studies for a joint smelting plant estimated at US$20 million.

Chrome ore exports were banned in April last year to promote value addition and boost revenue on Government coffers. There has been pressure on the Government to lift the ban in a bid to save small-scale chrome miners who are unhappy over prices being charged by ferrochrome producers.

Smelting companies are offering between US$50 and US$60 per tonne compared with international prices of around US$490 and US$110 per tonne.

But the Government, through the Ministry of Mines, has been adamant that the ban would not be lifted.

Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to process all the lumpy chrome produced.

Statistics from the Chamber of Mines indicate that there are over 4 000 registered chromite mining claims.

Of these, indigenous Zimbabweans hold about 46 percent, the balance being held by five large-scale mining companies.

Major players include Zimasco, Zimbabwe Alloys and Maranatha. Zimbabwe's chrome ore grades range between 42 percent and 48 percent.

Chromite is mined through the Great Dyke, especially in the Darwendale, Lalapanzi and Mutorashanga areas.

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