via Zimasco reopens – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 18, 2016
The chrome smelting furnace at Zimasco’s West plant in Kwekwe, which had been shut down for the past 14 months, was on Monday up and running after South African investor, Portnex International started operations.
A total of 130 people have already been employed at the plant and the company is working on commissioning the second of the three furnaces, leased out by Zimasco in a five-year deal, by mid-March.
Managing director, Frikie Laubscher said, although they lit the furnace, smelting was not yet at full throttle because there were teething problems.
“We plan to test all systems and look out for teething problems this week so we can commission soon after. All raw materials needed for start-up and running of the plant have been moved to site,” he said.
Portnex International’s move to lease the plant in a $12 million deal comes when Zimasco had stopped all smelting and applied for judicial management, claiming it was not viable for them to continue with operations.
Zimasco retrenched 645 workers and forced another 200 on two weeks’ salary forced leave owing to low metal prices on the international market.
Laubscher said his company had a niche European market and was also armed with new technology, which would make their operations profitable.
Most of the 130 workers were former Zimasco employees, who told NewsDay that Portnex had brought hope and revived crushed dreams.
“Yes, I have been working for Portnex for nearly a month and I am looking forward to a full salary for the first time in eight months,” one of the workers, who refused to be named, said.
Former Zimasco employers had been placed on half salary for months before they were retrenched,with the lowest getting nearly $150 a month.
Laubscher said his company had its own salary schedule, although it would compare with the structure which Zimasco was using and strike a balance.
“We have our own systems and, yes, we will look at the structures that were previously obtaining and strike a balance,” he said.