SMM Holdings will soon re-open Mashava Mines, one of its asbestos mines in southern Zimbabwe, Mines and Mining Development deputy minister Fred Moyo has said. “We will start with Mashava because technically, it is easier to restart and requires less capital. It also produces the grade that is on high demand on the global markets.
“We are playing with scenarios that respond to capital requirements and the product mix,” said Moyo. SMM, which also operates Shabanie Mine in Zvishavane shut down its mining operations in 2004 after the Government annexed the assets from businessman Mr Mutumwa Mawere through a reconstruction order, alleging the company was State-indebted and insolvent. At the time of closure, the company was the world’s sixth largest with an annual output of 140 000 tonnes, according to the management
Recently, the management completed a report detailing financial and technical requirements for revival of Mashava Mines. Mashava and Shabanie employed 3 000 workers.
Deputy Minister Moyo could not disclose how is needed to revive Mashava but preliminary report by the management shows that at least $20 million is needed to restart the two mines. Deputy Minister Moyo said after re-opening the Mashava, the company would start working on re-starting Shabanie.
“We will look at Shabanie after re-opening Mashava because it is quite big and requires more capital,” said Deputy Minister Moyo. Several efforts to revive the two mines in the recent years collapsed with the recent being the pulling out of a South African investor who had expressed interest in injecting fresh capital amounting to $100 million.
While the local asbestos industry faces competition from global producers, the quality of mineral produced by SMM is rated the best and as such there is high demand for it.
Mines and Mining Development Walter Chidhakwa told the Senate in May this year the Government had secured a new market in India that may see the country shipping 50 000 tonnes of the commodity per year. Minister Chidhakwa said many potential investors were not keen to go into asbestos because of the lobby to ban the mineral.
Health authorities around the world have long advocated against the use of asbestos, saying it posed health risks when the silky fibres that make up the mineral get into the air that people breathe. According to Health Canada, when inhaled in significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause a scarring of the lungs that impedes breathing; mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity; and lung cancer.
Asbestos, which is widely used in the construction and other industries has been banned in many developed countries, including the European Union. In some countries, such as Canada its use is strictly controlled through the laws, according to reports.