Dinson steel plant pursues power deal with Mozambique

Part of the equipment for the steel plant at site.

ZIMBABWEAN authorities have reached out to Mozambique’s Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric power project to secure exclusive power imports for a US$1,5 billion steel and ferrochrome facility that is shaping up near Mvuma.

Fortune 500 listed Chinese giant, Tsingshang’s five million tonnes-a-year steel and ferrochrome operation was this week estimated at 60% complete.

The company is carrying out its Zimbabwean operation through a special unit called Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco).

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, a Disco official said if the power import deals, which are being spearheaded by national power utility, Zesa Holdings, are successful, dedicated power would be routed from Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric power station in Mozambique’s Tete  province exclusively for the project.

According to Zimbabwean authorities, the Mvuma plant would be Africa’s biggest steel operation when complete. The authorities have been working around the clock to address all hurdles.

“Zesa promised us that they will provide enough electricity,” Wilfred Motsi, project manager at Disco, said when asked how the project would be powered, given the electricity shortages confronting Zimbabwe. “They are also meeting Mozambique’s Mphanda Nkuwa for the supply of power. This means as promised, we will get enough electricity to power the plant. In the first phase, the plant will require 100MW, and at full throttle we will require a total of 800MW.”

The Mphanda Nkuwa power facility is on the Zambezi River, about 60 kilometres downstream of the existing Cahora Bassa Dam near Tete, which also occasionally exports power to Zimbabwe.

The firm will shell out about US$4,5 billion to complete the facility, which is expected to reach financial close at the end of next year, before commissioning in 2031, according to the African Development Bank, which became advisor last May.

With most of Southern African economies battling to generate their own power, Mozambique appears to be positioning itself to bridge the gaps by building facilities reaching out to most affected countries including Zimbabwe.

Authorities in that country have already said power from the facility would also be exported to South Africa, which has also been confronted by rolling blackouts that are threatening to ground Africa’s most industrialised economy.

For forex-starved Zimbabwe, the Mphanda Nkuwa project would come in handy as projections so far indicate that it will have one of the lowest generation costs in the region.

But the facility has already courted controversy, as it will force the relocation of 1 400 families and affect the livelihoods of a further 200 000.

Disco already has a power deal with Zesa, where a dedicated power line would be constructed for the facility. The plan will require 100MW during the first phase.

Under the deal, the Chinese firm will extend US$55 million in loans to Zesa, which will be used to construct the powerline linking Disco to the national grid.

On completion, power demand would rise to 800MW, Motsi told the Independent.

Currently, Zimbabwe is suffering a prolonged power shortage, which may mean expanded demand from Disco will starve other producers.

On Tuesday, the country was producing about 1 094 MW, against a daily demand of about 2 000MW.

Despite prolonged rolling blackouts, Zimbabwean authorities have promised Disco that they are confident domestic generation will be available for its steel operation.

“Zesa said it is banking on the Hwange 7 and 8, they are in negotiations with Zambia for the Batoka project,” Motsi. “So far, we have invested about US$750 million into the plant, including capital equipment.”

Motsi said Disco had invested US$50 million and this was injected into the construction of dams within the vicinity of the operation.

At the completion of the first phase, the plant will produce 1 200 million tonnes of carbon steel.

Zimbabwe has sunk about US$2 billion into power generation in the last decade. But the country still struggles with outages.

Experts say the country's coal-powered thermal plants are supposed to supply the baseload power, but the aged generators frequently break down.

According to a report from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe was targeting to build a US$6 billion steel revenue-generating industry in the next three years.

“The robust implementation of the engineering, iron and steel sector strategy (2022-26) is addressing the import substitution of iron and steel products,” Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza said.

Sekai Nzenza

“The sector aims to generate US$6 billion in revenues and employ about 50 000 people by the year 2026. There have been remarkable developments in the sector. Key to note is Cabinet’s approval of Kuvimba Mining House as a potential investor for Ziscosteel.”

The report also said a revolving facility, established by the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe three years ago, had saved 7 000 jobs and created 2 000.

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