Cement plants can’t keep up

Cement plants can’t keep up
Published: 03 February 2006

Utah has reportedly an abundance of limestone for mining but too little cement to keep up with construction demand. The shortage has more than doubled the price of concrete in the past year to $63.18 a square yard for finished pavement, according to a state price index.

The problem doesn’t affect the US$212m restoration of the Utah Capitol, however, where state architect David Hart anticipated a shortage and got his contractors to lock into lower prices with Utah’s only two cement producers more than a year ago.

Concrete prices were only US$25.60 a year ago, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, which tracks prices for basic construction materials -- an index that has jumped sharply over the past two years. The Capitol contractors also locked into lower prices for structural steel, which jumped to $2.29 a pound in December from $1.43 a year earlier.

A recent Utah Geological Survey report found the state had 84 high-calcium limestone quarries or deposits, giving Utah centuries’ worth of cement. But only about a dozen of the large and small works are considered active or ready for mining, said senior state geologist Bryce Tripp, who wrote the 80-plus page report, "High-Calcium Limestone Resources of Utah," published in November, to encourage more mining.

The state’s only cement producers – Holcim operates one plant in Morgan County and Ash Grove Cement runs another in Juab County – can’t keep up with demand in Utah, and a third company is looking to open an operation, said Tripp, who declined to identify the company (abstracted from Deseret News Publishing).