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Move over Kavee, Indian firm to mine limestone in Ortum

Updated:2009-07-06 09:48:45

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The cement industry in East Africa should brace for stiff competition in three years following the entry of India's cement giant, Cemtech Sanghi Limited.

The company has been awarded the rights to mine limestone in West Pokot.

Already, more than four other players are preparing to roll out production before the end of the year.

Sanghi Group director in charge of Africa investments Rajesh Kumar Rawal says their subsidiary, Cemtech, will start operations in August after a groundbreaking ceremony led by President Mwai Kibaki.

Cemtech says it will build low-cost houses for people across the country.

The controversial limestone deposits in Ortum, West Pokot, on the Uganda-Kenya border, have been the centre of attention between Kenya and Uganda's Kavee Quarries. This is after Kenya insisted that a cement plant should be constructed at the area.

According to Mr Rawal, the proposed plant will look at various grades of lime and marble stone, and "investigate the possibility of exploring for more limestone, volcanic ash and gypsum deposits" in the surrounding areas.

"We expect to produce more than 600,000 tonnes of cement per year in the initial phase.

"Then we will expand to over one million tonnes in subsequent phases, subject to availability of additional limestone," Mr Rawal said.

Cemtech was granted mining rights by the government early last month.

For the proposed Pokot plant, more than 150 million tonnes of usable limestone will be required for cement manufacturing. Mr Rawal says this might be catered during their mining period in the next 75 years.

Analysts say the plant could also be used to process limestone from a neighbouring country, where the group is established.

"We expect to export surplus cement to neighbouring countries," Mr Rawal said.

In a past conversation with The EastAfrican, Industrialisation Permanent Secretary John Lonyangapuo said the country stands to benefit from an ultra-modern cement manufacturing plant in West Pokot. More than 700 people are expected to be employed directly and over 1,000 indirectly.

Kavee Quarries has been mining limestone in the area since 1997.

It had not put up a cement factory and has been transporting the limestone 300 kilometres away for processing at a plant owned by Tororo Cement Ltd.

Civil society groups and Pokot leaders have mounted a campaign against mining of limestone in the area without construction of a cement plant nearby.

Initially, Kavee Quarries requested the government to allow it to continue transporting the extracted limestone from Ortum to Uganda for cement processing, citing "lack of electricity and poor infrastructure" in the area.

The company wanted a three-year period to iron out the infrastructural problems before setting up the factory.

But despite its proximity to Turkwel power plant — one of Kenya's electricity power stations — the three years lapsed without any substantial effort to install power connections to the mining area.

Meanwhile, cheap imports, mainly from Egypt, are a big challenge to the existing companies.

 

 

Source:http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke

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