Local firm Mainland International will this year break ground for its previously-announced cement manufacturing plant, that will, at full production capacity, be able to meet the equivalent of a third of Jamaica’s current demand for cement.
Mainland confirmed on Monday that some of the equipment for the plant was already in Jamaica, and that once the construction schedule was on target, the first batch of cement should begin rolling off the production line by the third quarter of next year.
Mainland will initially install capacity on an incremental basis starting off with a clinker grinding unit. The investors have opted to import the clinker and initially, the plant will have an annual capacity of 50,000t
or five per cent of Jamaica’s current market demand of about 1Mta. The grinding and bagging facility, to be located on 3.5 acres of land next door to Mainland’s main distribution and retail centre in Spanish Town, will expand on a phased basis to 330,000tpa.
The planned investment by Mainland comes against the background of the current disenchantment of the local market with the monopoly status that was virtually granted to Carib Cement when the government a few years ago raised the duty on imported cement to nearly 50 per cent. At the time, Mainland was one of two large cement importers that abandoned this important segment of its business, because the duty made it unprofitable.
That duty has since been relaxed - following the shortage that developed this year after Carib Cement revealed that it had, in error, supplied inferior cement to the local market.
As part of Mainland’s project, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) undertook an environmental impact assessment (EIA). The report provided details on the timeline of the project. "It is anticipated that the construction of the proposed cement grinding plant will have a total duration period of approximately six to eight months and that operations will commence one month after completion," said the report.
NEPA’s expectation is that the first phase will allow production of 150 tonnes per day on a single eight-hour shift, 330 days per year - giving the facility annual output of 49,500t.
Production will increase to 112,000 tonnes per year at the end of the second phase - after 10 months of expansion work.
Mainland’s Walker said the firm was currently "finalising the final set of financing," and that the expectation was for the company to continue expansion until "we reach a thousand tonnes of cement a day on the same site".
Looking ahead, Walker said that limestone would be sourced from Pauls Mountain quarry in St Catherine, located approximately 12km from where the plant is to be sited. The quarry - one of the island’s largest - has been owned by Mainland since June 2004. Prior to that acquisition, Mainland also bought Reid’s block factory in May Pen.
However, by the time Mainland’s plant gets to full capacity, Carib Cement would have completed its US$100m investment that will double its annual output to 2Mta.