The Sunday News
HWANGE Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) is exploring various funding options to raise about US$20 million for the refurbishment of one of its strategic units, the coke oven battery.
The state-of-the-art coke oven battery which was constructed by a British company, Otto Simon Carves in 1987, was decommissioned in June this year.
In 2010, the oven successfully underwent corrective maintenance after being down for four months owing to shortage of coal washing medium (magnetite), which led to a shortage of clean coal stocks for the battery.
The coke ovens contribute about 50 percent of the company’s total revenue. HCCL supplies the coke to the local market and exports to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We are still working on it (refurbishment). It’s work in progress and we are exploring various funding options to ensure we rebuild the oven…about $20 million will be needed.
“We are however, engaged in a coking toll agreement with the Hwange Gasification Company and South Mining Company and we are satisfying our traditional market but our strategy is to have our own coke oven battery back on fold,” said HCCL’s managing director, Mr Thomas Makore.
He said the 32 coke oven battery was now aged just like most of the equipment being used by the coal mining giant.
“We were a very big company and we didn’t recapitalise on time during the economic downturn and we were running and operating equipment which was 30 years old and if you do that you are bound to have constant breakdowns,” Mr Makore said.
At full capacity the battery produces about 18 000 tonnes of coke which will be sold mainly to the smelting, metallurgical and foundry industries.
As part of its immediate long-term plan, the company is set to increase the number of ovens from 32 to 40.
Last year’s export sales of coke and coke breeze decreased by 57 percent as a result of the shutdown of some of the operations of coke customers in the DRC and the invasion of cheaper coke imports from China.
The low offtake of coke, local and export, resulted in coke sales including breeze amounting to 85 910 tonnes compared to 228 201 tonnes sold in 2012.