by Mark Allix, 03 December 2013, 14:32

SEPHAKU Cement, a newcomer to the Southern African cement market, says its milling plant near Delmas in Mpumalanga is 95% complete, is on budget and is on track for production early next year.

The facility will be launched ahead of the company’s Aganang cement-making plant in Lichtenburg, North West, which is scheduled to go on stream in May.

The two plants will add a total of about 2.5-million tonnes to South African cement output each year, giving Sephaku between 15% and 20% of the regional cement market.

This creates competition for existing large-scale cement producers PPC, Afrisam and Lafarge, and will bring South Africa’s total cement production capacity to about 18-million tonnes a year, well exceeding existing demand of about 14-million tonnes a year.

Sephaku Cement is an associate of JSE-listed Sephaku Holdings and is a 64%-held subsidiary of Nigeria’s Dangote Cement.

Dangote has invested more than R1.1bn in the venture, the largest investment in a South African enterprise by an African firm.

Sephaku said on Tuesday that cold commissioning milestones had been reached, including the starting of the mill motor, exhaust fan and mill separator.

“Clinker offloading is in full swing and in the stage of final setting optimisation,” said Heinrich de Beer, engineering project manager at Sephaku.

Clinker is lumps or nodules produced in a kiln by heating various clays and limestone, as part of the cement-making process.

Gypsum — a chalk or plaster also used in making cement — offloading had also been commissioned, while the packing plant is about to be hot commissioned with cement. Other machines had been cold and hot commissioned, the company said.

“Our first stack of pallets have been wrapped and the full sequential start-up and commissioning of the packing plant is on the cards for the next week,” Mr de Beer said.

Sephaku said its plants used the latest cement-making technology. This reduced power consumption and also improved general environmental control.

Supporting infrastructure, including roads and intersections, were to be finished this month, along with weigh bridges and Telkom communications installations.

Initial construction of the turnkey project started in late 2011. Buildings including administration and sales offices were ready for occupancy, the company said.