Chinese-built steel plant in Zimbabwe fires up its furnace as it ‘builds the nation’

Chinese-built steel plant in Zimbabwe fires up its furnace as it ‘builds the nation’

A new US$1.5 billion Chinese-built steel plant in Zimbabwe has fired up its blast furnace as it begins production of pig iron, an important raw material needed to make steel.

There are high hopes that the Mvuma steel plant could enable Zimbabwe to become one of the Africa largest producers of steel products.

“Today marks a monumental milestone as our smelting machine produces its very first batch of pig iron,” Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco), the Zimbabwean subsidiary of Chinese steel giant Tsingshan Holding Group, said on June 13. .

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Pig iron, also known as raw iron, is produced by iron ore smelting in a blast furnace. Starting in July, the Chinese company also aims to begin manufacturing steel billets, an intermediate form of steel. Eventually, it will also manufacture other products, such as pipes, bolts and nuts, smaller slags, rolled tubes, fencing, wells, wires and bars.

The plant will initially produce 600,000 tonnes of steel per year at the peak of its first phase and production is expected to reach five million tonnes in the final phase of the plant expansion. It will employ up to 3,000 workers during the first phase of production and this number is expected to double during the second phase.

When operating at full capacity, the processing plant located about 200 km south of the capital Harare is considered Africa’s largest integrated steelworks. And it couldn’t happen soon enough.

After years of poor economic managementespecially under the leadership of former President Robert Mugabe, when the country’s largest steel mill was mothballed, Zimbabwe is now pinning its hopes on the revival of its steel industry.

The Chinese embassy welcomed the start of operations at the new factory, saying on X, formerly Twitter, that “this marked an important milestone for Zimbabwe’s industrialization and modernization.”

Chinese-built steel plant in Zimbabwe fires up its furnace as it ‘builds the nation’

Smoke is visible as production begins at the Dinson Iron and Steel Company’s Tsingshan production plant in Manhize village, near Mvuma, Zimbabwe. Photo: Reuters alt=Smoke is visible as production begins at the Dinson Iron and Steel Company’s Tsingshan production plant in Manhize village, near Mvuma, Zimbabwe. Photo: Reuters>

In the future, the plant will use Zimbabwe’s abundant iron ore, chrome, coal, nickel and limestone to produce steel products that will contribute to the development of the country’s value chain. Raw materials will be mined and processed locally, government officials said, with enough reserves to last 100 years.

Zimbabwe is rich in natural resources that could help it emerge from its economic crisis, including golddiamonds, nickel, ferroalloys, coke, coal briquettes, chrome ore, tobacco and raw cotton.

Tsingshan, the world’s largest stainless steel producer, also has other projects in Zimbabwe, including a ferrochrome smelting plant owned by its subsidiary Afrochine Smelting in Selous, a village in Mashonaland West province, about 70 km east. west of Harare.

Ferrochrome is an intermediate product used as a raw material in the production of value-added materials such as stainless steel. Ferrochrome produced in Selous will be used to make steel at the Mvuma plant.

Tsingshan also invested in coal for coke processing in the Hwange region of Matabeleland North province. The coking coal will come from the Dinson coal mine in Hwange.

When Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited the construction site in March, he said a change was underway as the country moved from being a steel importer to an exporter.

“It is gratifying that our iron ore is fully explored and developed locally. We would buy iron from South Africa and Kenya and now we will export to them,” Mnangagwa said.

“This iron ore was still there, unused, we didn’t know it. We wondered why some rocks are heavy and we even built the foundations of our houses with iron ore. We now use iron ore to help us to build our nation.”

Last year, Disco signed an agreement with the landlocked African country to build and renovate a 1,000 km-long railway network. railway line so that the company’s products can be transported to Beira, Mozambiqueon the east coast of Africa, for export.

“Once we start production, we will export a lot and in large quantities to different parts of the world,” the steel producer said.

“Our project will see the construction of the Gweru-Mvuma railway line, renovation of existing infrastructure (we will manufacture railway slippers ourselves) and a line to reach the Indian Ocean in Mozambique carrying value added products. Regional players are excited.”

Dosman Mangisi, director of operations at the Zimbabwe Institute of Foundries, described the start of operations as a “boost” for Zimbabwe’s steel industry.

“This is a dream come true for Zimbabwe’s economy,” Mangisi said.

He said this would improve the ease of doing business in the country in the metal smelting sector due to the availability of raw materials. This will have the effect of boosting both the downstream and upstream sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy.

“This is the time when the country must strengthen the retooling of the strategic iron and steel sector and cast metal foundries, both for domestic use and for export,” Mangisi said.

Many existing processing or enrichment plants in Zimbabwe and other African countries were built decades ago by European investors and are now obsolete.

Mangisi praised Chinese investments worth millions of dollars, saying: “China has become an Asian ambassador to Africa. This new step strengthens confidence in African economies.

“The advent of the Chinese, equipped with efficient technologies, brought a great change in the valorization of minerals in African economies.”

Zimbabwe has struggled to shake off economic problems resulting from that of Mugabe time in power. It has been more than two decades since the United States and some European countries imposed tough sanctions on the country in response to Mugabe’s human rights abuses and the controversial forced and often violent seizure of land from white farmers.

But China continued to finance major projects in the country including hydroelectric dams and airports such as the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare and the Victoria Falls International Airport. Chinese company Shanghai Construction Group has built a $140 million Chinese-funded parliament building as “a gift to the people of Zimbabwe”.

Zimbabwe has also become a major source of lithium, a key raw material for the batteries that power the country. electric vehicles.

Chinese companies, including Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group and Chengxin Lithium Group, have invested millions of dollars in the acquisition of lithium mines and more than US$1 billion in the construction of processing plants.

This article was originally published in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice in reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP application or visit SCMP Facebook And Twitter pages. Copyright © 2024 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.



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