Beneficiation of minerals and metals key: Metal casters perspective
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
Mineral and metal value addition and beneficiation in Zimbabwe have been cited as critical components that reduce the country’s import bill and turn around the country’s foundry sector into a viable economic sphere.
It is on record that one of the major causalities of the country’s lack of meaningful beneficiation capacity is the foundry sector, which has over the years failed to keep pace with changes on the global market with respect to product design, product life cycles and changes in production and manufacturing technologies. Worth noting is that mining and metal casting are inextricably tied.
In Zimbabwe, beneficiation of minerals is expected to benefit the manufacturing sector including the foundry sector and anchor mining sector growth expectations as enunciated in the National Development Strategy 1 blue print. Players in the metal casting industry are hoping that by end of 2022, the industry should be able to provide jobs to at least 30% to 50% of people it used to employ as they are looking forward to increase operational capacity of the sector.
In achieving all this, beneficiation of minerals and metals is a key determinant to the smooth running of foundries.
In an interview with the Mining Vision Magazine, Simbi Alloys Chief Executive Officer Patricia Mutombgwera revealed the need for mining players in the country to fully exploit the vast unexplored copper reserves in the country. Mutombgwera is the owner of a mine, foundry and steel manufacturing company called Simbi Alloys Private Limited; one of the few companies involved in the beneficiation of copper in Zimbabwe.
“We have vast unexplored copper reserves in the country and this is where we come in on the beneficiation part, creating employment and revenue income from exports,” Mutombgwera told the Mining Vision Magazine. “By far the largest proportion of copper is used globally in electrical wiring, printed circuit boards, in generators, electric motors and transformers,”
Mutombgwera’s standpoint is that all mines with vast copper deposits in the country should be resuscitated for beneficiation and save the steel sector from importing up to 75% of commodities for local use.
“We have Mhangura, Alaska, Copper Queen and Inyathi copper mine which have vast deposits of copper which could be resuscitated for beneficiation. We are having a rampant of mineral resources that are being exported unprocessed, the foundry player said citing that: “We must put a stop as industrialists, let us come together as we are not doing justice to our economy and our future.”
“Currently in our steel sector, 75% are imports yet we do have vast deposits of iron; over 30 billion deposits of iron,” Simbi Alloys Private Limited CEO hinted. “All our biggest mining companies are importing copper consumables from China yet we have the capacity to produce at low cost.”
Her view is that concerted efforts from metal casting industry players will assist in attracting government interventions that promote the ease of doing business in the sector through enabling policies. She is cognizant of the fact that the sector faces quite a number of challenges that need urgent attention and told this publication that Simbi Alloys has already engaged the Zimbabwe Institute of Foundries to get assistance on some of the pertinent issues relating to foundries and metal casting.
“I challenge all metal casting people to join hands so that our requests and advice to the government will be taken into consideration timeously,” Mutombgwera said
“The metal casting industry is currently faced with challenges such as the high cost of doing business, shortage of raw materials, high cost of power and shortage of skilled labour,” Simbi Alloys CEO said adding that: “Simbi has a rolling mill with the capacity of producing deformed bars, flat bars and angle irons but due to lack of skilled labour, it is idle.”
Her thinking on women involvement in foundries is that participation of women in the metal casting industry and beneficiation of metals is key in achieving inclusive development.
“I challenge women in business, by the year 2025, we want to see at least 25% of women representation in this sector,” she said citing that: “Women have a critical role within mineral production as well as in the development of sustainable communities.”
“Women’s participation within the mining industry companies has the largest impact on gender diversity and performance indicators such as financial, environmental, health, safety and corporate governance.”
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Institute of Foundries Chief Operations Officer Dosman Mangisi concurred with Mutombgwera’s sentiments and cited the need for serious engagements and mining promotion to push the agenda of copper and other metals’ beneficiation.
“There is need to see the beneficiation of iron ore, chrome ore, manganese, copper, as well as nickel in the country,” he told the Mining Vision Magazine. “This alone will breathe life to the metal industry in Zimbabwe, we already have deposits of manganese in Zimbabwe but in the country, for one to have manganese, you have to buy from South Africa or other countries despite having deposits dotted all over Mberengwa up to Mutoko there.”
According to the ZIF COO, nickel, aluminum, copper, brass and other metals are on demand, yet the country is importing.
“That is why we are saying we are lagging highly on mining promotion and we need to push the beneficiation issue,” Mangisi said. “There is need for serious engagements, if you go to China in this modern world, it is very easy to have some small plants which are cost effective.”
His sentiments are that: “It is our desire and passion to have foundries in all base metals that matter in the country to make sure there is availability of raw materials and make sure that there is beneficiation of various metal alloys.”