Asbestos fibre challenges weigh down production


Lovemore Zigara, Midlands Correspondent
TURNALL Holdings has scaled down operations due to a shortage of asbestos fibre and constraints in procurement issues as a result of foreign exchange shortages.

The listed company manufactures concrete tiles, pavers, fibre roofing and pipes among other product lines. The company has been affected by subdued aaggregate demand and uncompetitive pricing in the regional export markets.

In its financial results ended December 31, 2016, the company’s turnover declined by 46 percent to $16, 99 million compared to the prior year.

Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Engineer Fred Moyo acknowledged the development and said he would be meeting the company management today to discuss the way forward.

“There has been a serious shortage of asbestos fibre at Turnall and this has already affected production. I am meeting the company management tomorrow (today) so that we map a way forward,” he said.

“I will also be visiting Shabanie Mine in Zvishavane thereafter so that we see if we can get some fibre so that production keeps going at Turnall.”

Comment could not be obtained from Turnall management yesterday. Eng Moyo said the search for an investor for Shabanie Mine was on and hoped the breakthrough would boost local downstream industries.

The revival of SMM has stalled since 2015 due to a myriad of challenges. Government had sought to recapitalise SMM by channelling part of equipment secured under the $100 million loan facility by XCMG to the asbestos miner as well as courting a Belarus mining equipment manufacturer and supplier.

However, the modalities on the disbursement of the $100 million facility are yet to be finalised resulting in delays.

Earlier negotiations between Government and unnamed South African and Russian banks for a financial bailout to resuscitate SMM also collapsed. At one time, Shabanie Mine in Zvishavane and Gaths’ Mine in Mashava were the world’s sixth largest asbestos-producing entities, with annual output exceeding 140 000 tonnes. At its peak, the asbestos producing giant employed 5 000 workers. It is estimated that close to 200 downstream and upstream industries benefitted from the full-scale operations of the mines, then.


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