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Zimbabwe’s largest ferrochrome producer, Zimasco has scaled down its ferrochrome smelting operations to 40 percent capacity due to the prevailing low market prices for ferrochrome on the global market.

The ferrochrome giant last year said it has increased its production from 40 percent to 97,5 percent owing to an improvement in the operating environment. However, the production matrix has since changed due to the prevailing low global market prices.

Zimasco has an installed capacity of around 180 000 tonnes. Zimasco general manager (administration) Ms Clara Sadomba told the The Herald Business that at this level of operation the mining company is producing lumpy chromite ore adequate to supply the two furnaces that are running.

“Due to the prevailing low market prices for ferrochrome, Zimasco scaled down its ferrochrome smelting operation to 40 percent of capacity at the end of 2014.

“At this level of operation, Zimasco is mining production of lumpy chromite ore which is adequate to supply the two furnaces that are running,” said Ms Sadomba.

She said there are no requirements for sintered ore at the present operational level, which has resulted in the sinter plant being idle.

In February last year, Zimasco told The Herald Business that it has partnered a Chinese firm Jilin Houyuan Limited in a deal that was expected to lead to the construction of a sinter plant in Kwekwe.

A sintering plant is used in the pre-treatment step in the production of iron, where fine particles of iron ores, coke, flues, limestone and dolomite are combined by combustion to produce sinter.

Ms Sadomba said the production of lumpy chromite ore at the moment is adequate to supply two furnaces that are running and this saw the ferrochrome mining giant leaving the plant idle. She said Zimasco has been stockpiling slag produced from its smelting operations from the time the plant started operating in 1962.

The stock piled slag is estimated to be around eight million tonnes and this stock is piled at the Slag Dump situated at the Smelter West Plant.

She said this slag has been processed once through the alloy from slag plant used to recover alloy.

“There is new technology on the market that enables Zimasco to recover even more from this slag. In this regard, Zimasco signed a five-year contract with Golden Horizon International Holding Limited for the construction and operation of an alloy from slag recovery plant called the slag gravity separation plant,” said Ms Sadomba.

She said in terms of the contract, Golden Horizon will process the slag through their plant for an agreed fee per metric tonne of final product. The contract was signed in July 2013 and the plant was commissioned during the first-half of 2014.

The plant has the capacity to process 2,5 million tonnes of slag per annum producing up to 100 000 tonnes saleable ferrochromium alloy fines.

Ms Sadomba said since its commissioning, the plant has so far produced 55 300 tonnes saleable ferrochromium alloy.

She said the alloy produced from this recovery plant is cheaper than virgin alloy produced from the existing furnaces and this low cost alloy is assisting Zimasco navigate the current low ferrochrome prices obtaining in the market.

The construction and operation of this plant has created 400 new jobs. Zimasco and ZimAlloys are the two biggest producers of ferrochrome in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe and South Africa hold about 90 percent of the world’s chromite reserves and resources, according to a US Geological Survey.

Source : The Herald