BY TINASHE MUNGAZI
SOUTH Mining has invested US$54 million into a new coke processing plant as part of its expansion programme that is set to increase production to 420 000 tonnes per annum.
The current plant at the Chinese firm produces 11 000 tonnes of coke per month, which is then sold to local and regional industries.
Briefing Industry and Commerce deputy minister Raj Modi during a tour of the coke processing plant on Friday, South Mining managing director Chenji Li said the investment was part of efforts to meet increased local and regional demand.
“When we started operations in 2007, we were producing 2 000 tonnes per month, but we soon increased that to 11 000 tonnes after upgrading our plant. This figure is set to increase to about 420 000 tonnes per annum after our new coke processing plant is complete and fully operational by January next year. This development has been necessitated by the increased demand for our products in local and regional markets,” he said.
Li said construction of the new plant, which will be close to Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) battery, will be rolled out in two phases, with the first one expected to be operational in June, with full production capacity expected by January 2020.
“We began construction of the new coke oven battery last October 2018, so far we have finished the construction of the battery foundation. Then we work on chimneys and other components, which will take three months,” he said.
“We are planning to finish one wing by June, so the first production from the first phase will begin in October, but we are expecting full capacity of the project by January next year. The reason why we decided on the project was increased demand for coke, particularly from the ferrochrome producers and other off-takers, so we decided to build two coke oven batteries.”
An additional 300 jobs are set to be created when the first phase of the project, whose capacity is going to be 150 000t per annum, begins.
The new coking plant will be equipped with a recovery battery which will also produce by-products like benzol, crude tar and coke oven gas.
Li said plans to establish markets for the by-products were underway.
“We have a local market like ZIMCHE, while coke oven gas is useful for ZPC. We are currently in discussion with the power utility to use our gas to start up.
If they can use our gas successfully, they can replace the imported diesel, which can help them save on forex. ZPC had been using the coke oven gas from the Colliery before, but changed the technology to diesel after the company could no longer sustain demand,” he added.
Revenues of $27,3 million and US$7,8 million were realised from coke peas, nuts, foundry and breeze, among other products, last year. The company supplies ferro-alloy, copper and cement producers in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the event, Modi said: “It’s impressive what South Mining are doing. They are putting US$54 million in the project, which will help us in job creation as well as bringing in the much-needed foreign currency as the export market is already established. We are there as government. Whenever they encounter challenges, we are there to assist them. Government is seriously looking into retooling industries, but our challenge also is foreign currency. So we can’t help everybody at one time, but we are working on it and we have started the programme already.”