President Emmerson Mnangagwa has broken ground at the site of a steel plant being built at Manhize, near Chivhu.
Officials are touting it as one of the biggest private investments in Zimbabwe. Once a steel producer, Zimbabwe ran its steel company Ziscosteel into the ground and now imports virtually all its steel.
Zimbabwe in 2021 spent US$400 million on iron and steel imports, according to official trade data. The country is hoping to change that with the new plant.
Who owns the Manhize project? How big is it really? Can Zimbabwe’s notoriously poor infrastructure support a project of this scale?
Here are some facts on the project.
Who owns it?
The project is funded by Dinson Iron and Steel Company, a unit of Tsingshan Holdings. Tsingshan is the world’s biggest stainless-steel company and became the top nickel producer in the world in 2018. The company had annual revenue of US$53 billion in 2021. Tsingshan’s major operations are in Indonesia, the world’s second-biggest nickel supplier.
What else do they run in Zimbabwe?
Tsingshan already owns Afrochine, which produces 100 000 tonnes of ferrochrome in Selous. The company also runs a 350 000-tonne-per-year coke plant in Hwange.
How much steel will it produce?
The company targets 1.2 million tonnes of steel per year under its first phase. The project will include a carbon and steel plant, an iron ore mine, and a ferrochrome plant.
The first phase will have five furnaces, while in the future the company says it may expand to as many as 12 furnaces, more than doubling the initial output. The processing plant will be 1.5 kilometres long and 600 metres wide.
How will they power it?
Stainless steel plants are energy hungry, which is a major hurdle for the project in power-starved Zimbabwe. Tsingshan’s Indonesia unit is low-cost partly because it produces its own power.
According to ZESA boss Sydney Gata: “It (Manhize) will be the largest customer project for ZESA, requiring up to 500MW in the next two years, which is equivalent to almost a third of today’s national consumption.”
Dinson has claimed plans to build a 300MW power station at the site. But it will also need grid power from ZESA. It has an immediate need for 100MW.
Dinson and ZESA in July signed a public-private partnership to run a 97km high-voltage power line that will connect Manhize to the new Sherwood substation, the main grid interchange near Kwekwe. The substation, according to an update from the Zimbabwe Power Company, is expected to be complete in 2023, in time for the completion of Hwange’s new Unit 8 power plant.
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