A $1 billion investment deal that will see the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCOSTEEL) producing more than 1 million tonnes of steel within the next 18 months is being concluded between the government and a Chinese firm called R and F.

President Robert Mugabe held a meeting with the president of the investor company, Mr Jang Li at State House this Monday afternoon where he was briefed on the framework that the Zimbabwean side and the Chinese company have agreed upon.

The Chinese delegation comprising Mr Jang, his deputy Mr Wang and some senior officials from the Asian company were accompanied by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, Cde Mike Bimha when they paid a courtesy call on President Mugabe.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Minister Bimha said the two sides have already agreed on a framework and teams from the company have been coming to Zimbabwe for the past six months to conduct feasibility studies, while a Zimbabwean team led by ZISCOSTEEL Chairman, Mr Nyasha Makuvise has also been negotiating with the company in China.

“An agreement to revive ZISCOSTEEL was signed last month in Guangzhou,” confirmed Cde Bimha.

The Chinese delegation earlier on held meetings with officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

In 2011, the government signed a deal with an Indian firm called Essar Africa Holdings to revive the steelmaker but the deal failed to materialise after Essar pulled out citing non-viability of the business venture due to depressed global steel prices.

Cde Bimha expressed optimism that the investment by R and F, which will be carried out in three phases, will succeed because of the commitment being shown by both sides.

At its peak in the 1980s, the Redcliff-based ZISCOSTEEL employed more than 10000 workers while thousands more were employed in downstream industries.