The Manhize iron and steel plant is set to make Mvuma a major industrial town, while also making Zimbabwe one of the biggest global steel producers in the world, driven by competitive prices given that the bulk of raw materials would be obtained within a 400km radius.
This was said by Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association chairman, Cde Chris Mutsvangwa, recently after a tour of the plant by representatives of war veterans drawn from the country’s 10 provinces.
Construction of the US$1 billion iron and steel plant on a 250-hectare piece of land is being done by Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO), a subsidiary of global steel giant Tsingshan Holdings of China.
The project sits at the confluence of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Midlands provinces.
Already, it has recruited a 600-strong workforce of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled personnel.
Ninety percent of the workforce was drawn from locals.
To ensure skills transfer, 40 Chinese engineers leading the project have so far been assigned a Zimbabwean, who operates as an understudy. Communication channels have been opened by DISCO and local universities, to bring more students for attachment and those qualified as engineers for permanent job opportunities.
Those on the radar are the University of Zimbabwe, Great Zimbabwe University, Midlands State University and the School of Mines in Bulawayo.
There is an anticipation of huge benefits on the economy between May and August next year when the Manhize iron and steel plant starts producing 1,2 million tonnes of steel in its first phase.
In all four phases, the plant will employ over 3 000 people and a maximum 6 000, while producing six million tonnes of steel.
Cde Mutsvangwa said increased production capacity will see output rise gradually to 20 million tonnes in the next five to seven years.
The plant comes on the back of the world grappling with a steel shortage after the Russia-Ukraine conflict saw the destruction of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, which produced about four million tonnes of steel last year.
Cde Mutsvangwa believes once the Manhize steel mills start running, Zimbabwe would want to contribute meaningfully to world steel requirements.
Zimbabwe has only exploited 3 percent of its iron ore deposits, which are estimated to last for the next 200 years, with the highest purity at 66 percent, while the lowest level stands at 40 percent.
The deposits are in and along the Great Dyke, stretching from Mubaira in Mhondoro, to Featherstone and the Manhize mountains.
For the blast furnace, only 52 percent of iron ore is needed and this will be arrived at through mixing the best iron grade with the low grade.
Among top steel producers, South Africa produces a tonne at a price of between US$1 300 and US$1 800, while China produces a tonne at between US$800 and US$1 000 per tonne.
For China, the inputs for steel manufacture — coal, iron ore and nickel — come mainly from Australia, Indonesia and Brazil.
“For Zimbabwe, the coking coal will come from Hwange, the ferro chrome and nickel from the Great Dyke, and limestone will be taken from Mberengwa and Masvingo,” said Cde Mutsvangwa. “All the four elements are within the 200km to 400km radius in Zimbabwe.
“It is estimated that Zimbabwe’s steel production will be below US$800 per tonne and among the cheapest in world.”
Excess steel would be exported via the railway linking Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and new railway routes are being drawn to augment rail traffic movement for coal and steel, all destined for Maputo enroute to global markets.
This is expected to earn Zimbabwe the much-needed foreign currency.
Apart from iron and steel production, the country’s economy is also set for a boom with a diversification of economic process from the limestone that is expected to be tapped for cement production.
Cde Mutsvangwa said the process of maximising mineral value through beneficiation was at the centre of Zimbabwe’s rising fortunes, and happening under the “world class goods made in Zimbabwe for the global market” mantra.
A new town, bigger than Kwekwe, is also emerging.
DISCO has already started the construction of 400Kv power transmission lines from Kwekwe to benefit the community, with the equipment for the blast furnace to be mounted this week.