A US$291 million expansion and upgrade of the Lafarge North America cement plant near Harleyville represents the largest single capital investment in Dorchester County history, officials said Tuesday. The project, previously reported by The Post and Courier, is expected to take three years to complete, require hundreds of construction workers and add 18 permanent jobs to the company’s existing payroll of 135 employees. Work is expected to start in early 2007, he said.
With no spare manufacturing capacity Lafarge’s Southeast division has been importing 800,000t a year to meet the pent-up demand. The expansion would more than double production at the upper Dorchester County plant.
The company plans to make improvements to its existing cement kiln to increase the output to 1.3Mta, up from slightly more than 1Mta.
Also, Lafarge said it will add a second kiln in Harleyville that could churn out as much as 1.3Mta, bringing its total capacity to more than 2.6Mta.
A spokesman said the projected population growth in the Southeast is one of the main reasons the Harleyville expansion got the go-ahead. Another important factor was the incentive package, including an arrangement that allows Lafarge to pay the county a negotiated fee instead of property taxes on its new equipment.
The Lafarge plant was opened in 1974 as Gifford-Hill Cement. The site was last modernized in the late 1990s, when then-owner Blue Circle Cement invested about US$50 million in improvements.
On the opposite side of Interstate 26, Spanish-owned Giant Cement completed a major overhaul of its aging Harleyville plant last year. Similarly, Holcim upgraded its Holly Hill cement-making operation in 2003. (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)