The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe is targeting exponential growth in the production of ferrochrome and will leverage this on the International Chrome Development Association (ICDA) conference starting today until Thursday this week in Victoria Falls. President Mnangagwa is scheduled to officially open the prestigious conference, which brings together key global chrome ore and ferrochrome producers, customers, financiers and entities.
The coming of the conference to Zimbabwe is a culmination of an investor luring whirlwind by the new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa himself under the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra. Many key global economic players have fallen in love with President Mnangagwa’s pro-business policies and the secure investment environment obtaining in the country.
Government has declared natural resources, mainly minerals, will play a major role towards economic turnaround as the country moves to achieve middle income status by 2030.
In a wide ranging interview with The Sunday Mail Business ahead of the conference, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, said the conference comes to Zimbabwe at the opportune time when Government is out to revamp the chrome sector.
“Zimbabwe had over the last few years been witnessing decreasing ferrochrome production,” said Minister Chitando. “While 2018 production of around 350 000 tonnes was significant for the country, new capacity being commissioned and planned for commissioning within the year could see a 20 percent increase of ferrochrome production capacity to 418 000 tonnes in 2019.
“Most of the smelting technology in the country is old and there is need to invest in new technology, especially technology that can process fines. In the medium term, further expansions will see Zimbabwe ferrochrome capacity increase to at least 956 000 tonnes by 2022,” he said.
For this to be achieved, Minister Chitando, said Zimbabwe will make the most of hosting ICDA conference and place its chrome investment opportunities on a global pedestal. This, he said, will give the sector the much needed push to play a significant role towards the attainment of the ministry’s 2023 target by which Zimbabwe should generate at least US$12 billion in annual mineral exports up from US$3, 2 billion in 2018. Zimbabwe is endowed with over 40 minerals of which analysts are unanimous will provide quick start to the economy if they are beneficiated and value added before export.
“More than 200 international delegates from mining and related sectors will attend the conference which has been oversubscribed. The conference will highlight the importance of Zimbabwe in the chromium industry and will provide an opportunity to promote Zimbabwe’s rich mineral resources and the opportunity for development and investment in Zimbabwe’s mining sector,” he said.
Announcing the coming of the conference to Zimbabwe last month, ICDA president, Mr Phoevos Pouroulis, who is also a representative of Tharisa Minerals (Pty) Ltd at Karo Resources that is investing US$4, 2 billion in a platinum project in the country, said his organisation’s hope was that this will stimulate investment.
“Zimbabwe has numerous natural resources with huge potential particularly within the platinum group metals and chrome mining sector, which play a major role currently and future of this economy,” said Mr Pouroulis.
“Chrome in particular is a major asset for the country with the (world’s) second largest chrome resources housed right here beneath our feet (in Zimbabwe).
“. . . the world’s chrome industry will be meeting in Zimbabwe . . . (and Zimbabwe will) showcase to major players, the natural resource potential of this country and hopefully attract further investment,” he said.
Zimbabwe holds the world’s second largest chrome ore deposits after South Africa, with approximately 900 million tonnes of untapped ore, compared to the world’s estimated 7.5 billion tonnes of the resource, which put the country on a good pedestal to compete on the grand stage.
According to experts, ferrochrome is used in the production of stainless steel, which is defined as a steel alloy, with a minimum of 10 percent chrome by content, the average chrome content being 18 percent.
Stainless steel depends on chrome for its appearance and its corrosion resisting properties. High carbon ferrochrome is most commonly used in specialist applications such as engineering steels.
Lower carbon ferrochromes are produced in smaller quantities for more specialised applications.