Michael Magoronga, Business Correspondent
ZIMCOKE (Pvt) Limited is set to invest about $75 million into Hwange Colliery Company Limited’s coke division in a bid to capacitate the company and enhance increased production.
ZimCoke is in the last stages of taking over a coking plant within the defunct steelmaking giant, Ziscosteel, with renovations set to commence at the coking plant.
ZimCoke took over a coke oven battery plant segment within Ziscosteel under a $133 million deal.
At full capacity, the project is expected to produce 500 000 tonnes of coke annually, for both local usage and the export markets.
The company also undertook to take over a $225 million debt owed by Ziscosteel to a Germany bank, KFW.
In an interview, ZimCoke consultant Mr Eddie Cross said the company seeks to enhance coke production in the country hence the investment in Hwange Colliery.
“We intend to invest $75 million into Hwange Colliery’s coke division that will bring them into production. We also will invest about $12 million into Zimchem to enable the company to process all the products from coke to operations” said Mr Cross.
He said the company was in the final stages of taking over the KFW debt before moving on site for renovations.
“We are in the final stages of taking over the debt with KFW. Thereafter, our technicians will move on site maybe in March to commence refurbishment of the new coking company,” said Mr Cross.
Restoration of the coking plant is strategic for HCCL, which has been facing viability challenges for the past years.
In 2017 the firm invited bids for the rebuilding or complete new construction of a recovery type coke oven battery, by-products plant and gas plant.
In its notice at the time, HCCL called on bidders to demonstrate their capabilities to offer both a technical and financial solution as a package or offer either a technical or financial package only.
The ailing colliery used to export coke to smelters in the Copperbelt, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo but stopped in 2014 due to viability constraints.
ZimCoke (Pvt) Ltd and ZiscoSteel signed an agreement of sale in 2017 whereby ZimCoke acquired the coke-making assets of ZiscoSteel, consisting of the plant and machinery, land and buildings and associated infrastructure of coal handling and rail wagons.
ZimCoke chief executive officer, Mr Bill Moore, during the ground breaking ceremony last year, said the resuscitation of the plant would begin with the operationalisation of the Coke Oven Battery Number 3.
Mr Moore said ZimCoke already has an off-take arrangement with Glencore, an Anglo–Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company with headquarters in Baar.
Coke is a fuel with high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal in the absence of air.
It is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulphur bituminous coal.
While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is synthetic.
The form known as petroleum coke, or pet coke, is derived from oil refinery coke units or other cracking processes.
The successful implementation of deal would mark the resuscitation of the iron and steel value chains in the country.
The revived coke oven plant is expected to employ 500 people, while the full resuscitation of ZiscoSteel is expected to employ 3 000 people directly.
Experts are confident the ZimCoke project is expected to have strong forward and backward linkages.