The Sunday Mail
Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) has signed off an off-take agreement between awakening asbestos mining giant Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM) and an Indian buyer, which clears the way for the country’s first asbestos exports in more than 10 years.
The agreement comes barely two weeks after The Sunday Mail Business exclusively reported that SMM was due to resume asbestos fibre exports, with its first consignment destined for India.
MMCZ general manager Mr Tongai Muzenda said the first shipment could be done in a matter of days or anytime this week.
He said the country could readily find a market for the product as Russia is currently the only major supplier.
“Talking about asbestos from SMM, there has been an off-take agreement between the buyer and the producer (SMM) and very soon, maybe in the next few days or week, there will be a consignment which is going to be shipped out,” said Mr Muzenda.
“(After shipping), this (is when we) will determine the quality of our asbestos.
“Our asbestos — the long fibre called chrysotile — is arguably the best in the world and well sought-after across the globe.
“The biggest market at the moment is India and the only supplier, who can compete against us are the Russians, but ours is still the best.”
Resources generated from the exports will be used to resuscitate underground mining operations, he said.
MMCZ believes that there is potential to increase exports of the mineral to between US$40 million and US$60 million per annum.
Currently, the fibre is being processed from SMM’s rich dump tailings of more than 143 million tonnes, which accumulated over the 100-year period from 1907 to 2007.
Turnall Holdings, which uses the materials to manufacture piping and roofing products, has already begun cutting asbestos fibre imports following improved supplies from SMM.
The resumption of asbestos exports is expected to grow the country’s mineral export earnings from US$3,2 billion last year to US$12 billion by 2023.
Mining is expected to play a critical role in achieving an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Mr Winston Chitando told The Sunday Mail recently that, while work on the dump is progressing well, there have also been positive developments with regards to the resumption of underground mining, especially at Mashaba.
Engineers working on the dewatering exercise, said Minister Chitando, have now managed to access most of the underground equipment, which had hitherto, been submerged in water, and indications are that some of it is still in relatively good state.
An audit by Australia-based Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) in 2006 indicated that Shabanie Mine was a compelling investment case.
The report noted that the mine has the capacity to produce silky ore and brittle ore fibre worth US$765 million over the next 16 years.