African Chrome Fields (ACF), reputedly Zimbabwe’s biggest chrome miner, has launched its state-of-the-art aluminothermic plant which is set to further increase the company’s range of products through the addition of Ultra Low Carbon High Grade Ferrochrome (ULCHGFeCr) and boost employment across ACF’s operations.
The plant, located east of Kwekwe in Midlands Province, was officially opened on 25 July by the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa. The event was attended by a number of VIPs including Winston Chitando, the country’s Minister of Mines and Mining Development, a media group which included Modern Mining, and thousands of guests from surrounding communities.
Leon Richardson, COO of African Chrome Fields, explains the new plant to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. In the background (from left) are Moti Group executives Zunaid Moti (CEO), Nadia Mahne and Ashruf Kaka while Minister Winston Chitando (wearing a hard hat) can be seen on the left (photo: Arthur Tassell).
The technologically-advanced plant will initially produce 300 tonnes of ULCHGFeCr, and is expected to ramp-up production to 600 tonnes of ULCHGFeCr per month at full production. The aluminothermic plant creates certain by-products that have economic value themselves and will be sold, thus providing a secondary income from the plant.
The launch of the plant brings with it the creation of 50 new jobs, bringing the total number of employees at ACF to over approximately 1 250.
The new facility will increase the economic value of the high grade chromite ore by removing large quantities of gangue minerals, resulting in the production of a higher grade ferrochrome with minimum impurities.
One of the more important reasons for beneficiation of chromite by way of the aluminothermic process is the lack of electricity at ACF’s relatively remote location. The process used by the plant requires no electricity and allows ACF to increase the economic value of the chromite it mines by way of beneficiation. Beneficiation of raw material is in line with the Zim-ASSETS programme endorsed by the Zimbabwean Government.
ACF National Projects Liaison Officer, Ashruf Kaka, commented: “The aluminothermic beneficiation plant is a very exciting step both for our flagship operation, and for the development of Zimbabwe’s ferrochrome industry. Zimbabwe currently sits on over 12 % of global chrome reserves and we want to help the country fulfil its true potential as a major global player in the production and beneficiation of this vital stainless steel ingredient.”
John Drummond, Chief Technical Officer with ACF, said: “The aluminothermic process is not only more efficient, but cleaner as well, when compared to more conventional methods. The specific recipe and know-how of the aluminothermic plant for this manner of beneficiation is unique to ACF.”
The plant, which took just over 10 months to complete since receiving approval from the Environmental Management Agency, has reportedly been well received by the local community, government officials, and environmental auditors.
ACF is operated by the Moti Group, which is the majority shareholder of the company. Sakunda Holdings (Pvt) Ltd is the minority shareholder.
The Moti Group says it is one of the largest foreign investors in Zimbabwe through its investment – via ACF – in the country’s mining sector. ACF produces high-grade chrome and has tripled production levels to 30 000 metric tonnes of chrome ore per month since being acquired in 2014.