Govt looks to inject $15m to revive SMM

HARARE - Government will soon inject $15 million into the resuscitation of Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM), Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidakwa has said.

This comes after government secured asbestos markets in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Chidakwa told the Senate on Thursday a government delegation had also secured a new market in India for the supply of 50 000 tonnes of asbestos per year.

Shabanie Mine in Zvishavane and Gaths Mine in Mashaba closed in 2008, four years after government seized control of the mines from former shareholder Mutumwa Mawere.

Chidakwa said as far as equipment for the mines was concerned, the bill for the purchase of earth-moving equipment had been included under the ministry’s small scale mining equipment scheme.

“So, there will be some money that will be outlaid from that small scale facility, but there will also be some $15 million that we are negotiating. 

“I will be finalising the details with the minister of Finance next week so that we can move forward,” Chidakwa said.

On the issue of Shabanie Mine workers receiving $50 salaries, Chidakwa admitted the paltry amount was not enough.

“I think the $50 is just an amount to give people so that they have something to use,” he said.

“It is not enough and it can never be enough.  I think that it is important, as you rightly said, to resuscitate the activities of SMM and the actions that I talked about, we will deal with those issues.”

“For a long time, SMM was under judicial management and we have received various proposals from the judicial manager as to how he saw the resuscitation of the mine.

“To a lot of the proposals, we did say no, but we did agree to a situation where the SMM would reduce some of its structures and be able to raise some money which would then be pumped into the revival of Gaths Mine initially,” Chidakwa said.

He said there was a strong lobby for adding chrysotile asbestos to a list of substances recognised as particularly hazardous. Chrysotile, mined by SMM, is the only type of asbestos that is still widely used, mainly in building products in developing countries.

“You are aware that there has been a very strong lobby against the use of asbestos and I am happy to say that a delegation arrived back home from Geneva, where the meetings were held.

“I have information that the asbestos lobby, the continuation of the use of asbestos got a reprieve and we will be able to continue, with the support of Russia, Kazakhstan and a few other countries.  That is the one side.”

He added: “A delegation that we sent to India, went to look for the markets and I am happy to say that we were able to establish a market of 50 000 tonnes per year, plus another 10 000 tonnes which ordinarily goes to Turnall for the manufacture of asbestos sheets and so on.

“From a marketing point of view, I feel comfortable that we can proceed perhaps not at the same level, because when the company closed, I am advised that it was on 80 000 but we may be able to start on 60 000 and see how we can move forward.”

Chidakwa said it has not been an easy walk.

“Not many people were keen to go into asbestos because of the big lobby, not even financiers were ready to come on the table because they were not so sure whether the company would be able to resuscitate and be able to repay back their money.

“I want to assure you that now we have reached a stage where I can confidently speak,” he said.

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