ZIMASCO has partnered Chinese firm Jilin Houyuan in a deal that will culminate in the construction of a sintering plant at a cost of about US$250 million in Kwekwe, an official said.
The ferrochrome producer also concluded a similar partnership deal with Golden Horizon Limited, also from China for the construction of a slug gravity separation plant. Both deals were facilitated by Sinosteel of China, which owns 73 percent stake in ZIMASCO.
In an interview with The Herald Business yesterday, ZIMASCO general manager (marketing and administration) Ms Clara Sadomba said Sinosteel engaged foreign partners for the development of the sintering and the gravity separation plants to raise capacity. The sintering process involves combining ferrochrome fines to sizes enough to be fed into the blast furnace.
“Through the assistance from our major shareholder, we have managed to secure Chinese partner Jilin Houyuan limited who are going to raise funding for the construction of a multimillion dollar sintering plant in Kwekwe,” said Ms Sadomba.
“Jilin Houyuan will do the sintering process while ZIMASCO will pay for the tonnage of the sintered ore. This is part of our company’s initiative to turnaround the fortunes.”
She said the technology would help the company to reprocess huge piles of ferrochrome dumps. Ms Sadomba said once the sintering plant starts operating; ZIMASCO would boost its cash inflows “because the job that requires more capital would be undertaken by Jilin Houyuan.”
Commenting on the slug gravity separation plant, Ms Sadomba said Golden Horizon was setting up a plant with latest technology that will be used to recover ferrochrome alloys stuck in the waste material (slug) produced during ferrochrome production.
“We used to have our own alloy from the slug plant but the plant has been closed. It was no longer effective and required new technology hence Golden Horizon came on board to construct a new plant with the latest technology,” said Ms Sadomba.
“The plant will be able to crush the Slug and recover 4 percent of alloy currently stuck in the 10 million tonnes of slug that is in piles at the Kwekwe plant.
“We realised and concluded that the alloy trapped in the slug is a profitable product and ZIMASCO will benefit from buying the processed alloy from Golden Horizon at a reasonable price rather than the company doing the processing on their own.”
The slug gravity separation plant is scheduled for commissioning next month and Sinosteel hopes the two partnerships would assist ZIMASCO, one of the top global ferrochrome producer to regain its viability.
Since July last year, ZIMASCO has increased its capacity from 40 percent to near full capacity owing to an improvement in the operating environment, Ms Sadomba said.
It has an installed capacity of 180 000 tonnes per annum. Currently the company is producing 15 000 tonnes of ferrochrome per month.
Ms Sadomba said the company would invest more once the company has stabilised its operations. Zimbabwe and South Africa hold about 90 percent of the world’s chromite reserves and resources, according to a US Geological Survey.