The Government's plans to grow mining to a U$12 billion industry by 2023 are taking shape with the rolling out of a new multimillion dollar steel and ferro chrome project by Afrochine.
Construction of the country's single biggest production operation in the country is now underway in Chivhu, 150 kilometers south of the capital city Harare in Mashonaland east province.
The ferrochrome project is scheduled to commence in the second half of this year and it is expected to be the biggest operation of its kind in the country and probably in the SADC region.
Over the weekend, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando and Minister of State for Mashonaland East Aplonia Munzverengwi visited the site of the mega project.
The composite projects will entail a carbon steel plant, an iron ore mine and processing plant as well as a ferrochrome production plant with an annual production capacity of 500 000 tonnes.
Speaking to journalists during the site visit, Minister Chitando said the implementation of the project will entail multi-stakeholder engagements as the project cuts across various Government ministries.
For instance, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development will be roped in for the development of road and rail infrastructure to link the project site with Mvuma.
Similarly, Ministries of Finance and economic Development, Lands, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement, Energy and Power Development, Local Government, National Housing and Public Works will be critical.
"The whole idea here is to have an area of about 2 000 hectares where a number of things will happen.
The first is the carbon steel plant, which is about one and half kilometers, then there is also next to it a ferrochrome plant, which will generate 500 000 tonnes of ferrochrome.
Zimasco produces 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 1,5 billion tonnes, bigger than Zimplats and any other project you can think of, so that's really the whole grand plan.
"What we now need to do with that plan is to engage all stakeholders," said Minister Chitando. The mega project also supports the value addition and beneficiation initiatives, which will boost earnings as opposed to exporting raw ferrochrome.
This will also boost employment creation in the country. Afrochine managing director Benson Xu said the 1,5km long and 600m wide processing plant and entire project will create jobs for the community."
Steel processing players and others in the value chain are expected to come into Chivhu and also grow the industry," he said.
AfroChine has several other investments in the country such as those in Selous and Hwange where there are four projects with one of them expected to be officially commissioned by President Mnangagwa in July.
It is anticipated that the chairman for Tsingshan (Afrochine's parent company) will visit the country in July for high level engagements with the President Mnangagwa and will have four programmes.
The first programme will have two furnaces in Selous, while the second in Hwange will entail a 150 000 tonne coke battery first and a further 150 000 tonne in the second phase.
"Thereafter, ground breaking of the Chivhu project will follow. The fourth phase will see the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the full implementation of the Chivhu project.
"By then we should have finished all the consultations with the ministries and the offices of the Minister of State.
"So we have got tight timelines to do the necessary consultations so that we also get on the ground, and by mid July there is some work which would have taken place," said Minister Chitando.
Zimbabwe is home to the second largest chrome ore resources with an estimated 900 million tonnes while global resources are at 7,5 billion tonnes, making chrome a key growth node.
In 2019, the Government indicated plans to process the issuance of claims for chrome smelters to enhance their production and boost their exports contributions to the anticipated US$12 billion revenue.
This came after smelters made a passionate plea to Government for issuance of claims to endnote them to have adequate feed for their plants which were currently not relisting full potential due to insufficient raw material.
The implementation of the project is also expected to transform Chivhu into a vibrant town with enhanced infrastructure such as housing.
"I believe they had already planned for a town in the Chivhu area for their employees and other developments because what we want to see also are for Chivhu to grow because of those companies coming now and who are close to Chivhu.
"Currently, 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 the mining and the processing," said Minister Munzverengwi.
Afrochine is now the country's biggest chrome smelter and is a subsidiary of Tsingshan which produces 25 percent of global steel.