Chinese firm Afrochine Smelting will invest about US$2 million to construct two smelters in Zimbabwe for processing chrome ore into high-carbon ferrochrome, low-carbon ferrochrome and ferrosilicon chrome
The first phase of the project, which is targeted to produce 40,000 tonnes of ferrochrome annually, will be set up in Selous.
The company recently said the project would require 100,000 tonnes of chrome ore and 24,000 tonnes of coke annually.
“Most of the raw materials for the processing of ferrochrome, including chrome and coke, are readily available in Zimbabwe,” a company official said.
According to the company, the initial phase of the project will employ about 300 people.
Afrochine has invited interested parties to a public hearing ahead of the construction of the smelters.
As part of the due diligence process and compliance with Zimbabwean environment laws, the company has hired Tailjet Company to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment of the project.
The proposed investment comes after the Chrome Producers’ Association had engaged SMS Siemag of Germany to conduct feasibility studies for a joint smelting plant estimated at $20 million.
Chrome ore exports were banned in April last year to promote value addition and boost government coffers. There has been pressure on the government to lift the ban in a bid to save small-scale chrome miners who are unhappy over prices being charged by ferrochrome producers.
Smelting companies are offering between $50 and $60 per tonne compared with international prices of around $490 and $110 per tonne.
But the Government, through the Ministry of Mines, has been adamant that the ban would not be lifted.
Statistics from the Chamber of Mines indicate that there are over 4,000 registered chromite mining claims.
Of these, indigenous Zimbabweans hold about 46 per cent, the balance being held by five large-scale mining companies.