Quake-stricken cement makers battling to restore factory operations

Quake-stricken cement makers battling to restore factory operations
Published: 10 April 2011

Major Japanese cement manufacturers with factories in northeastern Japan ravaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster are battling to restore their plants’ operations, reports Kyodo News.

It remains unknown when the factory of Taiheiyo Cement Corp, in the tsunami-hit port city of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, will be able to resume operations, as the disaster inflicted serious damage to the facility.
The 1.8Mta factory accounts for around 40 per cent of cement output in the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan.

Although large amounts of cement are expected to be needed in rebuilding the extensive areas of the Tohoku region devastated by the disaster, there has been concern whether local cement makers will be able to meet the anticipated demand.

The Ofunato factory, situated in a coastal area to facilitate the transport of cement by ship, remains far from resuming operations as the facility was severely damaged by the tsunami. The company said it began assessing the extent of the damage to the factory only in April.

Among other cement makers in the Tohoku area, a factory of Hachinohe Cement Co. in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, and a plant of Mitsubishi Materials Corp. in Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, were forced to halt operations by the earthquake.

The Mitsubishi Materials factory was able to restart operations on March 30.

As reconstructing breakwaters, bridges and buildings in disaster-stricken areas is expected to require huge volumes of cement, Taiheiyo Cement said it is considering securing supplies from its other factories in Hokkaido and Oita prefectures.

In addition to production, cement factories have also doubled as facilities to recycle industrial waste, such as in using ash from incinerated garbage as a material for making cement. The halt in operations has prompted concerns about how to dispose of industrial waste if the resumption of cement plants is delayed further.