Holcim gets backing to build new cement plant

Holcim gets backing to build new cement plant
Published: 18 May 2006

Holcim is reportedly keen to build a new cement plant costing some US$305m at Nyergesújfalu, a small town in northwestern Hungary, 53km from Budapest, along the Slovakian border, where the local government set up an industrial park in 2000 in order to lure investments. Last Sunday (May 14) the municipality conducted a referendum in which voters backed the Holcim scheme.

At present, Holcim operates a cement plant in Lábatlan, only a few kilometers west of Nyergesújfalu. However, that plant is nearly 140-years old, and cannot be extended, as it is in a densely built residential area. The new location would be ideal because of its vicinity, allowing Holcim to keep most of its present employees, who could commute to the neighboring town. The company could also use existing mines in the area.

The idea of relocating in Nyergesújfalu first surfaced in 2004, and a preliminary agreement was signed after the municipality approved the plans, Márta says. But then, some representatives changed their minds, citing environmental concerns, and put the final decision in the hands of the population. Holcim had considered alternative locations in Slovakia and Romania, and, had there been a negative decision, had said it would pull out of Hungary. That no longer seems necessary. "With 41 per cent participation, 67 per cent of the voters gave the green light to the construction," Dr Mátyás Nagy, the notary of the municipality, told The Budapest Sun.

Now, Holcim has to complete its detailed environmental feasibility studies, and, if approved by the environmental authorities, the construction permit can be issued after further negotiations with the municipality. Construction work could start later this year. There is no room for delay, though, as Holcim hopes to start production by 2010. Nagy added that the municipality had supported the investment from the beginning. The new plant would occupy only eight hectares of the area of the industrial park, with an additional 60-hectare expansion area outside, for which the municipality has acquired the purchase right in order to provide it for Holcim, he said.

Some local representatives remain concerned about pollution, and do not support the incineration of hazardous waste - but Holcim has no intention of burning any, Márta assured.

Holcim says the plant will be one of the most modern and environmental friendly in Europe. It is more than one kilometer away from the nearest residential area, and surrounded by a protective forest zone. A more detailed survey, to be completed by July, will provide answers to the environmental concerns of the municipality, the population and green organizations.