As Holcim New Zealand focuses on two priority options for future cement supply, it is continuing to make significant investment into its current cement production plant at Westport. A $2.3 million high voltage upgrade project on the main substation at the Westport Works has recently been completed, giving the plant more supply flexibility and reducing the risk of power interruption to the plant. Major repairs to support structures on an incline conveyor structure have also been completed. In March, during a planned shutdown of kiln 3, work included replacement of two sections of the kiln shell. Several other major capital projects are planned this year, including investing $950,000 in a new quarry screen to provide more effective screening of quarry materials thus reducing electricity consumption at the quarry and during the raw milling process.
Continuation of the Westport plant (with an appropriate maintenance and capital works programme) plus bulk imports is one of the two priority cement supply options being considered. The other option, preferred by Holcim New Zealand, is to construct a new cement plant at Weston, near Oamaru. Consents were granted for the Weston option plant in February, however Holcim New Zealand is appealing a number of conditions relating to these consents. The final cement supply decision will be made by Holcim New Zealand’s parent company, Holcim Ltd and is not expected before late this year. During meetings held with Westport staff in March, the company emphasised that even if the decision favours a new plant at Weston, the plant would still need to keep operating for at least a further four years after that decision is made to allow time for planning, construction and commissioning of a new Oamaru plant. Meanwhile Westport Works continues to work to capacity, with record cement production of over 507,000 tonnes achieved in 2007. For the past five years Holcim New Zealand has had to import cement to supplement production from its Westport plant, which will celebrate 50 years of cement production in May