Grabbed Shabanie Mine faces collapse

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Self-exiled Mutumwa Mawere’s Shabanie Mashaba mining empire remains comatose and could soon collapse if urgent intervention is not found.

The asbestos mining entity was placed under curatorship following Mawere’s flight to South Africa and the subsequent seizure of his companies by government.

The curator has apparently failed to run the company and mining has virtually ground to a halt with thousands of jobs on the line. Poor management and outright looting has been blamed for the demise of the once flourishing company.

Zvishavane and Mashava mining towns are naturally following the mines to the graveyard and are both fast degenerating into ghost towns.

Mawere has bemoaned the fall of his empire, crying out to be allowed to take back charge of the companies and to breathe life back into them. But, calling from South Africa and with threats of arrest still hanging over his head, there is nothing he can do to avert the calamity.

Senior Zanu PF and government officials that have been linked to the Mawere empire-grab have clearly failed to run the company and sources said this week that efforts to get investors to resuscitate the mines had failed despite the invaluable high-quality asbestos deposits lying underneath.

Shabani Mashaba Mines still has 17 years of proven asbestos resources underground.

Finance Director of the mine Brusel Chirashi said the mine was capable of producing more than 70 million tonnes of fibre this year, but it was constrained by the lack of capital.

Latest reports from Zvishavane say power failures have damaged several pumps resulting in the mine being flooded.

Expensive machinery remains submerged and may be damaged beyond repair.

Mining experts say it might take years to retrieve and replace the machinery.

Only nine of the mine’s 20 water pumps were working.

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority Chief Executive Officer, Ben Rafemoyo told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on mines and energy this week that Shabani Mine had to be switched off because it had not been paying electricity bills for two years.

A source who was at the mine when the parliamentary committee visited the beleaguered mine last week. The silence at the once roaring complex was spooky, our source said.

“It was a depressing experience. One could feel the ‘death’ around the mine and even around the once bustling compound where thousands of workers live. The town too is getting ghastly by the silence – the virtual disappearance of business,” our source said.

The noise of heavy mining machinery characteristic of Shabanie and Mashaba mines was now absent.

There wasn’t any mining activity taking place when the parliamentarian team visited. A few workers who were still there were roaming around doing nothing.

Some of the workers complained that they had not been paid for months.

However, they still felt at a loss because the mine was grinding to a halt.

“We have gone without salaries for about 14 months now,” said a distraught worker.

“Sometimes we are paid $50 and our children are no longer at school because we cannot pay their fees.”

Shabanie Mine was in the past considered one of the best asbestos producers in Africa.

It had access to major markets in the US, Britain, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique, India, Iran, United Arab Emirates, China, Indonesia and other countries.

But, in 2009, the mine recorded a loss of 18,6 million. This manifested itself in the accumulation of bills owed to employees, creditors and equipment that could no longer be serviced.

The Managing Director, Stephen Nyagura told the visiting parliamentarians that mining could only resume if investors brought in capital to get the equipment working again.

Power supplies were cut off at Gaths Mine – one of the mines under Shabani Mashaba Mines Holdings – in December last year.

The mine had to stop operating due to excessive flooding.

Our source said the Chindori-Chininga-led parliamentary committee was last week shocked to discover that there was virtually no activity going on in the one kilometre deep mine.

Shabani has an urgent order of 200 000 tonnes of fibre which it cannot fulfil.

According to sources at the mine, the 200 000-tonne order could rack in $105 million, enough to resurrect Shabani.

The finance director said their customers were willing to take the fibre at any cost.