Undustry minister Mike Bimha appealed to parliament to support the Zisco debt assumption bill to facilitate the reopening of Zisco Steel which he claims will save the country about $350 million in steel imports while raking in over $1 billion export earnings annually.
Bimha appeared before the Industry committee of parliament Monday. He said the Chinese investor being courted by government was committed to ensuring effective operations resume at the defunct steel company.
"This investment is worth over $1 billion, the country's import bill of steel if Zisco becomes alive will be reduced by $350 million. Currently the country is importing over 500 000 metric tonnes worth of steel products," said Bimha.
He added, "Employment creation, there will be 3 000 people employed directly by the iron and steel company. But there will be 20 000 people indirectly employed in the downstream industries. This investment will have a ripple effect on the iron and steel industry.
"The project has a great capacity to earn foreign currency in excess of $1, 4 billion for this country so this is a huge project and therefore every care is taken to ensure that we succeed."
The deal is earmarked for sealing before the 10th of April this year as the ministry races to meet its 100 day commitment. The Chinese investor is R and F Company.
"The goal is not to see smoke coming out tomorrow or in the next 100 days but finalise the implementation modalities so that the investor can start," he said.
Among the precedent conditions negotiated for by the investor and met by government to enable operational environment the declaration of the iron and steel sector as a special economic zone, according of national project status, exchange control approval to safeguard export earnings and debt assumption which is awaiting parliament.
"I would urge the honourable members to support this process when it comes before parliament," said the minister.
The investor also negotiated for more natural resources to support value addition of steel.
"The investor requested a guarantee to access additional mineral resources namely 300 million metric tonnes iron ore, 150 million metric tonnes of coking coal and 100 million metric tonnes of limestone to produce both long and flat products.
"The ministry of mines agreed and the investor now awaits the allocation of specific claims from which to extract the mineral resources. They are going to go into stainless steel which once it comes up will earn more foreign currency than I indicated earlier on," he said.