Zimbabwe’s Shabanie & Mashaba Mines (SMM), which mines asbestos in the south-west of the country, remains comatose and could soon collapse if urgent intervention is not forthcoming.
The asbestos-mining entity was placed under curatorship following owner Mutumwa Mawere’s flight to South Africa several years ago after falling out with President Robert Mugabe’s government and the subsequent seizure of his companies. If he returns to Zimbabwe, Mawere faces arrest for ‘externalising’ foreign currency almost a decade ago.
The SMM curator has apparently failed to run the company and mining has virtually ground to a halt, with thousands of jobs on the line.
SMM’s mines are near the towns of Zvishavane and Mashava, which are fast becoming ghost towns.
Efforts to secure investors willing to resuscitate the mines have failed.
The mines reportedly still have 17 years of proven asbestos reserves.
SMM finance director Brusel Chirashi says the company could produce more than 70-million tons of fibre this year, if it were not for a lack of capital.
It has been reported that power failures have damaged several pumps at the two mines, leading to their being flooded, and mining experts say it might take years to replace the machinery.
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority CEO Ben Rafemoyo recently told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that Shabani mine, near Zvishavane, had to be switched off because it had not been paying electricity bills for two years. Power supplies to Gaths mine, near Mashaba, were terminated in December, also for nonpayment.
And workers complain that they have not been paid for months.
SMM was once a major producer of asbestos in Africa, and had access to mar-kets in the US, the UK, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique, India, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, China and Indonesia, besides other countries.
MD Stephen Nyagura told visiting members of Parlia-ment’s Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that mining could only resume if investors brought in capital to get the equipment working again.
Committee leader Edward Chindori-Chininga said he was shocked to discover that there was virtually no mining taking place at the mines.
Shabani mine reportedly has an urgent order for 200 000 t of fibre that it cannot fulfil. This order could rack in $105-million.