Lafarge disclosed on Thursday that the company was importing cement to meet a short-term supply squeeze, the first shipment of which it expected to receive before month-end.
Speaking at a media function in Johannesburg, newly-appointed CEO Albert Corcos said that the company could import as much as 300 000t of cement, and 300 000t of clinker, a material used in the production of cement, until its R1.2bn capital expansion projects came on-stream, in mid-2008.
Local competitors PPC and Holcim were also importing cement to meet an unanticipated surge in local demand.
In October, Lafarge told Engineering News Online that it was only importing clinker, and not cement.
Corcos said that the cement would be sourced from both inside the group and from accredited external suppliers, mainly in China and India.
He added that the company could lose money from the imports, and that it had to source the product at an acceptable price, and it also had to find an suitable freight rate, which was a challenge for the cement industry.
“Road transport is killing the cement industry because it is a low value, high volume product,” he lamented.
In a previous emailed statement, Lafarge had said that a fire at one of its Lichtenburg plant’s kilns had affected it for six weeks at the end of the first quarter of the year, and had caused the need to import clinker, which is used in the cement production process.
“In 2007, our clinker imports will be limited to the production capacity of our grinding facility in Richards Bay,” the company stated.
Corcos said that the fire had caused Lafarge a 150 000t production loss, and that the company currently had undertaken temporary measures to mitigate this, but that the proper repairs would be conducted over a scheduled three-month maintenance period, which took place every year, during April.
To increase supply in the longer-term, Lafarge said that it was currently working to increase the output of its kilns, and had embarked on capital projects that would “substantially increase” the company’s production capacity, which would be commissioned near the end of 2008. [Source Mining Weekly, South Africa].