SMM resumes production Exports to start in July
The Chronicle / Mayibongwe Madlela
Shabanie-Mashaba Mines (SMM) chief operations officer Steve Nyagura (left) and plant manager Fundira Mashingaidze (right) show Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando part of the dump at Shabanie Mine on Friday last week
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
SHABANIE-Mashaba Mines (SMM) Holdings has started delivering asbestos to industry in a major import substitution victory for the country, and the firm expects to resume exports in July this year.
SMM, which was closed about a decade ago, is indeed taking shape, Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando, said.
Speaking during a tour of Shabanie-Mashaba Mines on Friday, the minister expressed satisfaction with efforts being made to revive the asbestos mine including prospects of resuming exports by July.
“The fact that we are already delivering products to Turnall is a big plus, the fact that we are already having an import substitution is also a big plus and the fact that from July we will start exports is another big plus,” said Minister Chitando.
“We look forward to the mine going back to production as it plays an integral part in the country’s economy and also more importantly to see the dumping treatment exercise, which has been a success”.
He said the company should also seek ways of further processing the dumplings at its Shabanie Mine operations for more minerals so as to generate more revenue.
SMM began stuttering in 2004 and was to effectively wind up operations in 2010 due to a myriad of challenges.
Lack of capital rendered the company’s assets worth an estimated $450 million, a white elephant and condemned over 4 000 workers to joblessness.
“We will obviously like to see feasibility studies taking place on the other dumps being treated coming to fruition because that’s really a cornerstone and one of the milestones towards the revival of Shabanie together with other initiatives,” said Minister Chitando.
He said the company should also seek investors to partner it in the exploitation of its tantalite, nickel and limestone deposits as well as chrome claims so as to grow its business.
The minister further stated that the company should seize the opportunity to supply nickel to a stainless steel plant that has been earmarked to be set-up in the country.
“Over the next few weeks or months we will be working with all entities which hold nickel assets to ensure that the roadmap towards Zimbabwe having stainless steel production involves these assets being put into productivity over a period of time.
“Obviously there will be feasibility studies and exploration in some instances but this is a start of the roadmap towards production of stainless steel in the next five years or so,” said Minister Chitando.
SMM group chief executive officer Mr Chirandu Dhlembeu said production at Shabanie Mine started three months ago while at Mashaba’s Gaths Mine resumption of underground mining was being delayed due to lack of foreign currency to procure the requisite machinery for de-watering.
About $900 000 is needed to purchase de-watering machinery as well as other ancillary machinery to be used at Gaths Mine. The mine has a resource of over 18 million tonnes with an estimated life span of 17 years. However, over five million tonnes of the resource is submerged in water effectively rendering mining operations impossible.
“There is production taking place from the dump tailings here in Shabanie. There are 200 people working on that, there is capacity to do 1 500 tonnes per month. At Mashaba we are going to do underground mining. However, we are behind by four months because of foreign currency shortages, but all things being equal, we are looking at starting production by December this year,” said Mr Dhlembeu.
He said efforts were also being made to exploit minerals found in their asbestos dumps, which include gold, magnesium, nickel among other metals.
“We are looking at a host of about five minerals but what we don’t know is the quality of each mineral or whether it can be separated viably; that’s what we are trying to prove through a feasibility study which is ongoing now,” said Mr Dhlembeu.
He said Nigeria’s Dangote Group once approached them seeking partnership in the exploitation of magnesium.
“They are looking at magnesium metal, which is the future metal. It’s lighter than aluminum but stronger than steel. It’s used mainly for light weight products like aircraft, electrical trains’ components and even motor vehicles.
“In future you will see that they are going to use chassis made from magnesium metal and the motor vehicle will be much lighter than what it is now,” said Mr Dhlembeu.
He also said the company was doing exploration work at its limestone deposits in Mberengwa.
“We have limestone deposits, which are 20 kilometres from Zvishavane, in Mberengwa to be precise. Again that’s a green field.
“It has not been touched meaning there is nothing that has happened to it. At the moment we are doing resource evaluation just to quantify how much there is in that claim and the quality.
“Once we have done that then we can bring in a potential investor and start mining,” said Mr Dhlembeu.
The company is contemplating starting regional export markets in July with management saying the project was viable.