Saturday, February 16, 2008

Zisco Steel Grinds To A Halt

By: Oscar Nkala
Published: 8 Feb 08 - 0:00
Zimbabwe’s major iron and steel producer, the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco), will shortly shut down its Number 4 blast furnace, the only operational unit, to pave way for its refurbishment.

Acting Zisco CEO Alois Gowo tells Engineering News that the refurbishment contract has been awarded to a Chinese company. “The blast furnace has already outlived its lifespan. A Chinese company will carry out the job of relining the furnace between now and July. All we are waiting for now is the release of the US$9,5-million payment by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. We expect the actual refurbishment to begin in August,” Gowo said.

He adds that, in line with the agreement, Zisco has started building up stockpiles of iron waste pieces (ingots) that will be processed into finished goods when the relining process begins, while the Chinese company will supply the equipment.

Zisco projects that production will increase to 25 000 t a month when the furnace comes back into production. Steel production at the company has been on a continuous slide for the past five years as the country’s economic crisis worsens. The latest slide saw production levels tumble from 20% of its full capacity in 2006 to 10% currently.

Gowo blames the decline in production on several factors that revolve around power cuts and inadequate coal deliveries from Hwange Colliery Company.
Coal deliveries to us declined from an average of 8 000 t a month between September and December last year to a mere 5 000 t a month currently. Power cuts also continue to deal us huge blows.” Gowo.

The company resumed production a fortnight ago, after being forced to close down by the nationwide power outages last week.

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