The Sunday News
Fairness Moyana in Hwange
THE travel restrictions that have been brought about by Covid-19 have delayed shipment of key material to complete the setting up of a coking battery plant at Afrochine Coking Plant in Hwange.
The plant which was supposed to be completed in the second quarter of the year is now expected to come to life at the end of the year, an official has said.
Briefing the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Winston Chitando and Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube during the tour of the mine on Friday, Afrochine managing manager, Mr Chen Wenliang said work on the construction of the coking plant was gravely affected by the global outbreak of Covid-19 which effected restrictions such as travel in most countries.
“Honourable Ministers as you may be aware Afrochine is a company owned by Tsingshan Global which is a leading producer of stainless steel with operations in China, Malaysia, US and Africa including Zimbabwe where we have two projects running. Here in Hwange we are constructing two units of coke battery with a total capacity of 300 000 tonnes per annum. The first unit will be completed by end of 2020 as a result of delays brought on by the pandemic. The coke will supply local ferrochrome smelters also future planned carbon steel plant in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Chen.
He said the pandemic has also affected the delivery of critical equipment being shipped from China for the plant and restrictions on travelling also saw skilled labour in battery construction from the Asian country failing to travel to Zimbabwe.
“We had received part of the equipment but now face an obstacle in that the pandemic has locked out the skills needed to put together the coking plant. As a result of travel restrictions our teams of experts cannot travel and this has had a profound effect on the timelines of the project which was set to go online in the second quarter. Maybe Honourable Ministers you can assist in this regard through special arrangements.”
The ministers said they would look into the issue as special arrangements could be arranged which were in line with WHO safety regulations so that work could proceed.
The company which locally operates under the Dinson Colliery label with a staff complement of over 100 locals has invested US$90 million in coke and ferrochrome operations in Hwange and Kwekwe respectively. The firm plans to venture into carbon steel manufacturing and build a 60MW power station in Hwange which will run on gas from the coking plant.
Mr Chen appealed to the Government to assist the company with a Coal Special Grant (CSG) to meet its coking plant demands while raising a red flag on their allocated land.
“We also appeal to you about decongesting the concessions around the area. We have a challenge in that the better part of concession area allocated to us is in the National Park which is a sensitive area while the other part has a rough terrain which is not conducive for operations as we expand.”
Over the years, the Government has awarded special mining grants for coal explorations in an effort to boost production in the sector which is earmarked to contribute towards the attainment of the US$12 billion mining industry economy by 2023.