Unki imports bricks from China

A UNIT of Anglo American Corporation, Unki, has imported bricks from China to repair its furnace as there are no local suppliers, NewsDay has heard.

BY BUSINESS REPORTER

The consignment of 98 tonnes of refractory bricks came via a chartered plane this week.

It is understood that a supplier from South Africa failed to meet the requirements, hence the importation of the bricks from outside the continent.

The importation of the refractory bricks is an indictment on local brick makers that have failed to tap into the lucrative market.

An industry expert told NewsDay that miners have to import the bricks, as there was no local supplier.

“If mines want the special bricks, they have to import,” he said.

No comment could be obtained from the platinum producer.

Unki general manager Walter Nemasasi told NewsDay on Monday to send questions on email. He had not responded by yesterday.

Repeated efforts to contact him were unsuccessful as his mobile number was unavailable.

The importation of the bricks came as Unki was also working on a $62 million smelter project to process the ore before it was sent to South Africa for refining.


The miner told the media last year that the smelter would be operational in 2019.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest platinum reserves after South Africa, with the country calling on platinum miners to beneficiate the metal locally.

In 2017, Unki’s platinum production was flat at 74 600 ounces while palladium production increased 5% to 64 400 ounces from 61 400 ounces in 2016.

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6 Comments

  1. the problem with refractories is they are not all for the same use. if you invest in certain type, you need to be sure of the market. Normally, a company changes furnce brick lining once a year. And sometimes its just minor replacements. If you dont have many customers, it means you wait whoole year for an order. What am saying is if there is no constant market/ demand .. maybe it fine for them to import. Where I work we import from USA and Germany. Its an industry you cant just invest for the sake of it. Zim doesnt have an industry that can support setting up a plant for acid or heat brick. The demand is very small.

    1. Yes agreed grudgingly though, but then let us find out if Unki placed an order with brickmaking companies like Willdale, Beta and Vaka Concrete before deciding to import them from China which 17 hours flying time away from Zimbabwe on an airbus. Although the bricks do not have a stable market in the country can the producers not manufacture those bricks if orders are placed well on time like say 1 or 2 years ahead of collection. If we have got all the materials, those three companies should have the capacity to produce as per order given reasonable time to manufacture. Such imports if not controlled they can seriously complicate the country’s balance of payments.
      controlled can maul our hopes for quick wins.

      1. these are not ordinary bricks you use to build house. These are furnace bricks made to withstand heat of more than 500 deg celc. Some are acid bricks which dont melt on being exposed to acid. So no, they cant place with the companies in Zim because they cant make them.You need special equipment to make those bricks. You dont make with equipment for normal mortar bricks. Thats a huge investment. You may want to google companies like Stebbins, Koch Knight, DSB who are masters in this sector. Its not an emotional decsion. Its a real business decision based on availability and capability.

        1. I don’t particularly agree with your argument Poso. For starters, bricks (any form of bricks) are capital goods and they hardly ever have a constant market. When you look at these manufacturers (even the Chinese ones where these bricks are being imported from) they don’t have a constant market but they make up for that by diversifying. They don’t just make one type of brick or just bricks. They diversify and make more items like pre-casts, concrete pavements etc. All of these are mostly capital goods and they don’t have a constant market. See, you talk about it being a huge investment, but that’s where prepayments come in where Unki could have paid these guys upfront in order to give them some capital which can be used together with other forms of capital to start the process. At the end of the day, as a country we won’t get anywhere if we are not innovative enough around our economic challenges.

  2. Journalist critic on things they have no idea of. If SA could not supply then definitely not Zimbabwe with Zisco Zimalloys closed market is very small

    1. Your argument isn’t very well-informed either. They said a supplier from South Africa failed to meet the requirements and based on this alone, we don’t really know the supplier or what requirements are being referred to. At the end of the day, as a country we need to get to a point where we don’t really care what others say they cannot do and just come up with ways and solutions to our challenges. Look back at the story of Patrice Motsepe, he started off by buying old mines that the bigger guys like Anglo felt were no longer profitable. What Anglo deemed unprofitable was profitable enough to make Motsepe a billionaire. I personally think that imports are one of the things that dealt our local manufacturing industry the final blow.

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