Michael Magoronga in Kwekwe
INDUSTRY and Commerce Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, yesterday commissioned the $255 million ZimCoke (Private) Limited plant at Redcliff that is set to revive the coke and coking coal industry and create more job opportunities.
The investment is set to create nearly 1 000 jobs with many more along the value chain. The company is also expected to play a major role in the restoration of normal water supply to Redcliff Municipality through the construction of a water treatment plant.
ZimCoke took over a coke oven within the defunct Ziscosteel in a $133 million deal viewed as the first step towards revitalisation of the steel giant. The two companies signed an agreement of sale in 2017 where ZimCoke bought the coke-making assets of Zisco consisting of the plant and machinery, land and buildings, and associated infrastructure of coal handling and wagons.
In his keynote address Minister Ndlovu said the ZimCoke project was critical in unlocking a new era of heavy industrial transformation in the Midlands province and the country at large.
“It has now taken three years for the conditions precedent to the ratification of this transaction to be implemented but at last, the day has come when we can announce that the new investor has been authorised to implement its plans and this was finally agreed by Cabinet,” he said.
“In my view, this key project would open up a new era of heavy industrial development in the province and the country at large.”
Minister Ndlovu said the project was the first huge step towards the much awaited re-opening of Ziscosteel.
“I am sure that if we applied our minds to these issues, we could get the much bigger project, that of the rehabilitation of Ziscosteel Limited. We need to produce enough low carbon steel for regional demand. Zisco always produced a high quality of steel and was recognised for this,” he said.
Once operational, the minister said ZimCoke would revive the coke and coking coal industry in the region as it will become one of the largest producers of metallurgical coke.
“ZimCoke will start by supplying the South African market, which currently faces problems with supplies from China and other sources. The world market for coke and coking coal is firm and expanding while many of the long established sources of both are reaching the end of their functional life. This is the opportunity that Zimbabwe must take advantage of,” he said.
“The regional demand for coke is currently estimated at four million tons per annum direct imports amount to a third of this demand and could all be replaced by coke produced in Zimbabwe.”
Minister Ndlovu directed ZimCoke management to consider expansion and double production as everything was available on site, which is within the Ziscosteel compound. ZimCoke is set to start operations in six months’ time and plans to use four coke batteries.
“I have spoken about plans you have on the four batteries but I still feel there is scope for further expansion. What about a further expansion of capacity here beyond four batteries, what about doubling production here — everything is here on site,” said the minister.
ZimCoke operations director, Mr Michael Moore said the plant was set to commence operations in six months’ time and needs about four months to complete refurbishment of coke ovens before turning them on. He said a further two months was needed to heat up the plant. “So by this time next year, operations will be in full throttle,” he said.
Mr Moore said besides creating jobs for ex-Ziscosteel employees, the company will also rake in millions of foreign currency.
“ZimCoke will not only create hundreds of jobs to ex-Ziscosteel employees but will also bring in millions of foreign currency through exports not mentioning the revival other companies that rely on it,” he said.
The company is also expected to inject a further $150 million in addition to the $220 million Ziscosteel debt to Germany bank KfW that the company has almost cleared.
A total investment of $400 million is earmarked with projects like the Redcliff water supply system, rehabilitation of the Redcliff-Hwange railway line, expansion of a coal mine in Hwange among others.
Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, July Moyo, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister, Larry Mavima and Germany Ambassador to Zimbabwe Dr Thorsten Hutter also graced the occasion. The delegation also toured the Ziscosteel and Zimchem plants.