BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA/TINASHE KAIRIZA, RECENTLY IN MVUMA
FORTUNE 500 company, Tsingshang’s massive steel and ferrochrome production plant is taking shape near Zimbabwe’s mining town of Mvuma, Standardbusiness established last week.
The operation is being established by Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco), which is a unit of Tsingshang.
It is on track to produce its first steel early 2023, although officials say there have been significant delays due to Covid-19 induced hard lockdowns.
When the project was commissioned last year, government said Zimbabwe was building Africa’s largest steel plant.
At peak, the operation will have capacity to produce five million tonnes of iron ore annually.
Buildings are emerging out of thick forests, where staff houses, warehouses and a cement mixing plant are nearing completion.
The company has secured licences and approvals to exploit vast iron ore claims in the area where an industrial park and downstream industries will be established.
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The industrial park will be larger than nearby Mvuma on completion, officials said on Wednesday, allaying fears 90 families to be displaced would be left stranded.
A dedicated power supply line has already been established while construction of a railway line and dam is being considered for the project.
Roads are being rehabilitated with a number of bridges also expected to be replaced.
Some of these have already been relocated.
During a tour of the project, Disco public relations manager, Fanuel Utete said work to establish the first of the firm’s five furnaces was under way.
“On phase one, we will have five furnaces,” he told Standardbusiness.
“At this stage, we will be producing 1,2 million tonnes of ore annually. But we will go further to operate 12 furnaces and produce five million tonnes of ore annually.
“This is very possible. The company has capacity and high quality ore is available.
Disco will be spending an estimated US$10 000 on each of the affected families to construct houses.
“I have never been employed in my life and now I own a house that is much better than the one I had.
“I am earning a stable income and able to decently look after my family,” said Wisdom Chimhuka, one of the resettled villagers.
“I have been staying in a temporary structure since last September and my house will be complete (this week).
“They cleared land for us to plant maize and we expect our relatives to join us on this side soon.”
It is one of a few cases where Zimbabweans have said they have been treated well by Chinese investors, who have recently come under fire for a string of transgressions.
Across Zimbabwe, villagers face the threats of being displaced by Chinese investors to make way for mining operations.
Graves have been destroyed, and delicate environments have been trampled on.
“All general or unskilled labour is being hired from the community, this is their project and they are a part of it all the way,” Utete said.
However, the project has been affected by shipping delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tsingshan is the proprietor of Afrochine Smelting, a company which has a huge presence in Zimbabwe’s chrome fields.
Last year, Afrochine said the steel plant would sit on 2 000 hectares.
This will comprise a 1,5 kilometre long and 600 metre wide processing plant and mines.
Altogether the operation will turn over at least US$1,5 billion per annum.
Afrochine, Zimbabwe’s largest chrome smelting operation is a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Tsingshan Holdings, which accounts for 25% of global steel production.
Afrochine last year said it was determined to roll out a ferrochrome facility three times bigger than the Midlands-based Zimasco, Zimbabwe’s current biggest chrome processor.
Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando said the government had mobilised key state agencies to work around the clock and ensure a flawless decision-making process for the project to be delivered timeously.
“The first is the carbon steel plant, which is about one-and-half kilometres,” Chitando said.
“Next to it will be a ferrochrome plant, which will generate 500 000 tonnes of ferrochrome.
“Those who know Zimasco, Zimasco does 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 US$1,5 billion, bigger than Zimplats and any other project you can think of.
“That is really the grant plan.”