Business

CEMEX deepens Jamaican investment

Aggregate producer restructures, introduces new product line for sugar, water sectors

By Camilo Thame Business Co-ordinator thamec@jamaicaoberver.com

Friday, February 22, 2013    

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CEMEX Jamaica is near completing an over-US$1 million, 40,000 tonne plant, which will produce hydrated lime for the domestic market.

The aggregate and limestone mining company will primarly target sugar producers and water suppliers, according to Rafael Villalona, who expects to start production within the next 60 days.

During that time, CEMEX aims to establish the size of the local demand and the price its customers will be willing to pay, said the managing director.

"Hydrated lime is used by the sugar industry to stabilise PH levels in the ground, while it can be used for the treatment of waste water and drinking water," said Villalona, who noted that it was also used in products, such as paint and toothpaste.

Over the past six months, the company has been undergoing a transformation.

Back in September, CEMEX took over the management of its quarry, which had been managed by an outside company since it was acquired in 2005, and, just this month, set up a lab for testing the quality of aggregate and lime products. Testing for granular metric curves can show gradation of materials that can lead to optimisation of lime mixtures.

The company also launched corporate offices in Kingston this week.

But the latest project pushes CEMEX's total investment in Jamaica to over US$35 million since it entered the market eight years ago. It also reflects CEMEX's deepening interest in Jamaica and its drive to diversify its product portfolio across the Caribbean markets within which it operates.

Up to now, operating a production facility at Halse Hall, Clarendon and a quarry in Woodside, also in Clarendon, the company focused on producing high quality lime stone and aggregates for the construction of housing and infrastructure.

"Today, using CEMEX'S global sustainable vision and after a thorough process of re-tooling we have expanded our business units," said Villalona. "We have grown from a supplier of products such as lime, hydrated lime and aggregates to provide construction solutions in the areas or infrastructure and housing."

The aggregate plant has the capacity to produce 500,000 tonnes annually, but the company, which is part of a global operation that is among the top three aggregate producers in the world, expects that taken over the reins of the local operations will give it greater efficiency that will translate into savings for its customers.

The managing director said that the quality of Jamaican lime products often exceed those produced overseas, which is why CEMEX is exploring more ways of using the products locally and supplying those needs.

"When you have such high quality aggregates it gives you numerous opportunities," he told Caribbean Business Report. "For instance, limestone of such quality should be used in concrete."

Typically, the construction industry uses river stone to mix mortar.

CEMEX has already expressed an interest in partnering with the Government in the use of cement in road construction, according to Morais Guy, Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing.

It also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Housing Agency of Jamaica in November, to explore the provision of construction materials or even constructing infrastructure and housing solutions on lands owned by the Government.

Even though the aggregate company will primarily focus on the local market, it expects that it will also export it products as the demand arises.

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