03 May 2023
This revolutionary factory will bring value-added services back to Africa, rather than seeing it export its chrome overseas for beneficiation, says the company's MD, Zunaid Moti.
African Chrome Fields to unveil $40m smelting plant in ZimbabweThis revolutionary factory will bring value-added services back to Africa, rather than seeing it export its chrome overseas for beneficiation, says the company's African Chrome Fields, a private black-owned mining company, has revealed that it will commence operations of its revolutionary aluminothermic smelting plant in Zimbabwe in less than 60 days.
The upcoming launch of the factory represents the culmination of an investment of about $40m, as it seeks to build its name as a major African mining player.The pioneering facility is furnished with exclusive, cutting-edge technology that does not require the need for power to convert chrome ore to ferrochrome — a key ingredient needed in the manufacturing of stainless steel.
As one of the largest chrome mining firms in the region, African Chrome Fields carries out extensive mining operations along the Great Dyke region of Zimbabwe, located in the Midlands province. It has allocated about $250m towards investments in the country since the initiation of its activities in 2014. This substantial sum serves as testament to the company’s confidence in the region, as well as its commitment to driving economic development, says MD Zunaid Moti.“With the launch of the new plant, we also hope to localise an even greater portion of mineral supply chains and bring more value-added services back to Africa rather than seeing Zimbabwe continuously export its chrome overseas for beneficiation.
Zimbabwe is home to highly skilled and educated people, as well as an abundance of natural resources, and these need to be harnessed to generate greater wealth and economic opportunities within the country,” says Moti.“Using our proprietary technology, our plant’s exclusive aluminothermic methods will enable us generate superior quality ferrochrome that has extremely low carbon content in just a fraction of the time required by conventional techniques. With no power required, it will take just two minutes to accomplish what normally takes more than seven hours. Along with our top-notch chrome ore, we will soon produce a superior product that outperforms nearly every other offering worldwide.
”With no power required, it will take just two minutes to accomplish what normally takes more than seven hours" - Zunaid Moti on the technology that will be used to convert chrome ore to ferrochrome in African Chrome Fields' new plant
He notes that the aluminothermic process is much more eco-friendly compared to other mining methods that involve chemical reductants or fluxes. The use of aluminium and heat to create metal concentrates reduces the need for electro power and eliminates impurities such as sulphur and phosphorus for a higher-grade product. Moreover, this method of chrome refining accelerates land rehabilitation times and will diminish its carbon footprint.“African Chrome Fields has invested considerable time, funding and research into developing this product over a six-year period, with additional support from South African partners.
But to safeguard the project's intellectual property, we have refrained from publishing details about the process that might disclose trade secrets, prevent copyright or patent establishment, or reveal proprietary protection.
Zimbabwe possesses the world's second-largest chrome deposits after SA, with about 12% of global reserves. As one of the largest chrome mining companies in the region, African Chrome Fields holds significant reserves of high-grade chrome, easily accessible due to an alluvial deposit on the surface. In recent years, African Chrome Fields has significantly increased its activities by establishing seven chrome processing facilities, in addition to 19 modular wash plants that can handle about 50 tonnes of material per hour, resulting in a combined capacity of about 1,000 tonnes per hour.
The company has also allocated roughly R200m for mineral exploration purposes over the last six years. The aluminothermic plant's construction started in 2016, but faced several significant delays and setbacks due to the pandemic and various other trials. However, the company persisted, and though it will only produce limited tonnage, the new plant’s low and ultra-low chromium products are expected to command substantial prices for the benefit of the company and country’s economic growth.
Moti adds, “The world leader in these products is Germany's Elektrowerk Weisweiler and a factory in Russia currently dominates the global market. However, Zimbabwe and African Chrome Fields now has the opportunity to compete with these industry giants.”Ferrochrome, an essential ingredient in stainless steel production, is made from a blend of iron and chrome. As demand for stainless steel continues to rise, driven by increased recognition of its resistance to oxidisation (a key consideration amid growing climate change concerns), African Chrome Fields aims to gradually increase its production from an initial 40% to full capacity.
To ensure it meets the high-quality standards required by users of these products, it will further closely supervise all outputs and regulate impurities during production. “As a Zimbabwean-based investment that will have a South African minority stake, the project represents an African innovation that will significantly contribute to the region's development.
African Chrome Fields is proud to be expanding our operations in Zimbabwe and to play a part in changing the narrative for the country and Africa as a whole, showing the world that African companies can successfully compete with large international companies,” says Moti.