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Shabanie Mashaba Mines to resume operations?

By Dumisani Nsingo

SHABANIE-MASHABA Mines (SMM) Holdings has completed de-watering one of its two major mines paving way for resumption of operations before the end of the year.

Abandoned wagons at the railway line which used to transport products to and from the main plant
Abandoned wagons at the railway line which used to transport products to and from the main plant

SMM administrator Mr Arafas Gwaradzimba of AMG Global Chartered Accountants said the company has started exploring export markets as it seeks to reclaim and consolidate its position in the provision of asbestos products globally.

He said the company had successfully completed the de-watering exercise at one of its two mines, King Mines in Mashava while the process was going on at its Shabanie operations in Zvishavane.

The de-watering exercise comes after the mines’ underground shafts were extensively flooded since the company’s closure 10 years ago.

“On de-watering it’s not very easy at Shabanie but we have finished de-watering at King Mine to the extent that we can start to equip the mine when funds are available.

“We are going to start capitalising King Mine in Mashava in order to make it the first operating mine and when we get more funds, we then come back to Shabanie,” said Mr Gwaradzimba.

More than 600 metres of water have been pumped out at Shabanie but the mine needs 787 metres to be pumped out.

SMM began stuttering in 2004 and was to effectively wind up operations in 2010 due to a myriad of challenges.

Shabanie Mine main asbestos milling plant (file photo)
Shabanie Mine main asbestos milling plant (file photo)

Lack of capital rendered the company’s assets worth an estimated US$450 million, a white elephant and condemned over 4 000 workers to joblessness. Mr Gwaradzimba said the company has managed to fund most of its projects through disposing part of its real estate assets.

“We realised that there was a scope in that there was a lot of land that was not in the books of the company, which was only part of the company’s mining issues and we went through the process of creating real estate assets out of that.

“We have now done it, the company now has real estate assets, which can be disposed of and which can now raise funds for both de-watering, re-equipment and re-engagement of the company’s mining partners,” he said.

Mr Gwaradzimba added that the start of mining operations at King Mine would largely depend on the rate at which the company’s real estate assets are being sold.

“If our real estate sales go fast maybe within three to six months, we will be able to start operations at King Mine. It’s all hinged on the success of these disposals and fortunately during the first week we have had a good show of support,” he said.

Mr Gwaradzimba said the company was generating chrysotile asbestos fibre from its rich dump tailings totalling 143 million tonnes, which was accumulated during the firm’s 100 years of operation from 1907 to 2007.

“We are doing small mining from the dumps and we are recovering a little bit of asbestos, which has gone for tests in Vietnam to see if the market accepts it and then we will continue to send such products. We have a little bit of it right now at the mine in Zvishavane. Of course, we have managed to import a bit as well,” he said.

Mr Gwaradzimba indicated that the company was targeting to reclaim its old traditional markets while efforts of exploring new market are underway.

“We are just going to go back to the markets of SMM but I’m sure there will be more interested parties like countries like Belarus, which has approached us and India has always been one of the biggest markets and part of China. We are also looking at the South East Asian market,” he said. Sunday News