Chinese bid to open closed Mhangura, Alaska mines

Shame Makoshori


CHINESE investors have put up a strong bid to reopen Mhangura Copper Mine (MCM), shut down in 2000 due to a host of problems, among them poor international copper prices,
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has been informed.


Mashonaland West governor Nelson Samkange told businessdigest last week that his office has been flooded by requests for the mine despite MCM’s low reserves at the time of the closure.


Samkange said his office was working with the ZMDC and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) to find appropriate investors for the former Johannesburg and Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed company.


There were also promising deals to reopen Alaska Mine near Mhangura, Samkange said, adding that during MMCZ’s recent trip to China, serious discussions were carried out regarding the closed copper mine.


“There are so many interested investors from China and other countries who have talked to us but their offers are under consideration at the Ministry of Mines. Whether they will be offered opportunities is up to the government, but they are very serious,” Samkange said without disclosing the companies.


MCM, a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), owed substantial debts to various creditors when it closed down. These included power company, Zesa Holdings, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and rail transport operator, National Railways of Zimbabwe.


MCM’s closure left about 1 500 workers out of employment while its copper refinery plant which has the capacity to mill 4 800 tonnes per month also winded up.


In 2000 MCM entered into a contract to treat 2 000 tonnes of copper concentrates from Gecamines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other Zambian mines but the deals were aborted under unclear circumstances.


Several Chinese business delegations have toured Mashonaland West, where the mine is situated, seeking investment opportunities since 2004.


China Aerotechnology Import and Export Company (Catic), which sealed several deals across all economic sectors of Zimbabwe last year, has announced its intention to invest US$400 million in the country’s mining sector in the next few years.


The rapid growth of the Chinese economy in the past decade has unlocked high demand for copper in the mines, information technology, automotive, construction and other industries in that country.


Chinese companies have resuscitated closed mines in Zambia’s copperbelt.


However, there are high incidences of mine accidents in that country, a situation analysts said had to be considered by those spearheading MCM’s deals.


About 150 workers died in Zambia last year in gas explosions in a Chinese-run mine in the copper belt.


In 2004, 6 000 workers died in Chinese mines while 3 800 workers were killed in Chinese coal mine accidents in 2005.


The Chinese government last year moved in and shut down 4 000 mines which did not meet the required safety standards at the end of 2005.

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