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Protea Chemicals opens environmentally friendly gypsum plant



JSE listed Omnia Group’s chemicals division, Protea Chemicals today announced the opening of an environmentally friendly gypsum plant which will supply some of the country’s largest manufacturers of cement and cement board.

The plant, designed with an annual capacity of approximately 210 000 tons, was launched following a R35m total investment. The plant’s location at Phokeng, just outside Rustenburg gives it vital proximity to much of South Africa’s cement manufacturing capacity.

In line with the Omnia Group’s commitment to the environment and sustainable development, the plant will process an existing stockpile, which is a by product of the phosphoric acid plant, resulting in the rehabilitation of the surrounding area once the stockpile is exhausted.

The plant will treat the gypsum, enabling the gypsum’s use by customers manufacturing cement and cement board, including Lafarge Cement, Lafarge’s Board Division, and Holcim, Protea Chemical’s original technology partners on the plant. Gypsum is a crucial ingredient in cement manufacture, as it acts as a retarder, delaying the time it takes for cement to set

Protea Chemicals MD Edu Cloete said local demand for cement was extremely strong, and the decision to invest in the plant would see Omnia becoming a critical supplier to a rapidly growing industry: “Cement demand currently outstrips supply, with a shortfall of 5 million tons recorded in 2006. In addition, government is spending R27bn on infrastructure projects in the next three years, further underpinning demand. For this reason, we are confident in the sound business value of this investment,” Cloete said.

Cloete continues that Protea Chemicals was proud of the environmental benefits associated with the project. “This is a genuinely green project. The gypsum on site will be processed and removed, returning the site to its natural state.”

The gypsum plant will be owned by the Omnia Group, and Protea Chemicals will market its output.