Lovemore Zigara and Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Reporter
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has identified four centres along the Great Dyke, where it will set up smelting plants as part of efforts to promote Zim-Asset’s value addition and beneficiation thrust.
One of the smelting plants has been set up at Mapanzure near Zvishavane and will be commissioned in February next year.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister, Engineer Fred Moyo, said it is uneconomical to beneficiate chrome currently due to prohibitive transport costs from mining areas.
“We need to beneficiate our chrome but we were failing to do so because our smelters are located in the middle of the country on the dyke that is Kwekwe and Gweru. When you want to move chrome ore from Mberengwa to Gweru or Kwekwe, it is difficult to get there because of prohibitive transport costs,” said Eng Moyo.
“We decided to directly invest in Zvishavane and then allow the exploitation of this mineral in Mberengwa, Zvishavane and Chivi. This is what culminated in the smelter that we have put up in the Mapanzure area. It will use (process) around 6 000 tonnes of chrome ore per month but we want that to go up four times, which means we will be requiring 30 000 tonnes per month,” he added.
He said the smelter will be operational in February and this will create at least 300 jobs directly while 3 000 others will be created through other downstream and related industries.
Eng Moyo said a chrome washing plant will be established in Zvishavane in early January before other similar plants are set up along the Great Dyke.
“In the next six weeks we will bring a washing plant in Zvishavane to be able to receive the ore to wash it before it is fed into the plant. Mid next year we expect more similar investments in the area again,” he added.
Shortages of smelters in the country have been hindering production and growth in the chrome mining sector.
The developments come as the chrome sector has been on a growth trajectory, which has seen the 400 000-tonne production target Government set at the beginning of the year being surpassed.
Meanwhile, Shurugwi-based Anglo American Platinum Mine, Unki Mine’s platinum smelting, is now at 40 percent of construction. Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), which wholly owns Unki Platinum Mine near Shurugwi, has budgeted more than $62 million for a local smelter, as miners in the sector brace for Government’s ban on unprocessed mineral exports. Local policymakers believe the country is not getting the maximum value from its minerals as commodities are being exported in raw form to overseas markets. In 2014, Government gave the country’s three biggest platinum producers — Zimplats, Mimosa and Unki — a January 2018 deadline to submit proposals to build a precious metals refinery.
The company has taken heed of the Government’s call for value addition and beneficiation.
“We are now at 40 percent of construction. We started constructing the plant last year and we are hoping to complete the construction as soon as possible,” the company said recently.