In a bid to meet the rapidly growing cement demand in South Africa, Lafarge has committed itself to a number of short- and medium-term infrastructure investments to increase its local production capacity.
The largest of these investments, explains newly-appointed Lafarge South Africa CEO Albert Corcos, is the R1.2bn project to increase cement capacity by one-million tons a year at its Lichtenburg cement works in the North West province. The Lichtenburg cement works is, currently, the largest and most technically advanced cement clinker production facility in the country.
Corcos explains that groundwork has started on this project and tenders for the construction of the new plant will be placed before the end of the year. In addition to the construction of this new plant, the project will also involve the installation of a new kiln at the Lichtenburg facility to expand the clinker production line by 800 000 t/y.
This project is expected to be finalised and commissioned by the end of 2008. Corcos continues that in con- junction with the Lichtenburg project, the development of another one-million-ton-a-year greenfield grinding plant at Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, is also under way.
The site near Randfontein has been chosen by the company as it is close to Lafarge’s main markets and is a good location for sourcing additives and extenders for cement production.
While this project is also expected to be completed in 2008, various other short-term investment projects are being undertaken at Lafarge’s Lichtenburg works to increase cement output through reliability improvements. To this end, R120m has been committed to increase milling capacity by 25%. Corcos states that by the beginning of 2007, a further 10% capacity will be added.
A R16-million project to increase packing capacity by 30% is also progressing well. Until these projects have been completed, Corcos confides that Lafarge South Africa will be importing approximately 300,000tpa of cement from Lafarge facilities in Asia.
Corcos elaborates that these investments, and the subsequent importation of materials, have been necessitated by the phenomenal growth of the local cement market, evidenced by the fact that demand has risen by almost 50% from 9.6Mt in 2002. In addition, the South African construction market, particularly in terms of the government’s housing programme and prepara-tion for the 2010 soccer World Cup, continues to perform well with this year’s trend still above the 10% annual growth across the whole market.