Significantly, this is the first cement manufacturing facility established in the country.
Lesotho’s Prime Minister Dr Pakalitha Mosisili, speaking at the official opening in February 2017, hailed the plant as a ‘significant milestone’ for the region and a boost for local socio-economic development.
Dr Mosisili highlighted that in developed countries one job in the cement industry creates ten times more upstream and downstream jobs. “This figure may be four to five times higher in developing countries,” he said.
The capacity of the plant – over 200,000 tons a year of bagged cement – will meet the current local cement demand, while also being capable of producing specialised products for large infrastructure projects like the Lesotho Highlands Water scheme.
The main raw material for the plant – milled clinker – is railed to Maseru in bulk wagons from AfriSam’s Ulco facility near Kimberley. This is beneficiated with pulverised fuel ash (PFA) from Lethabo power station near Vereeniging in the Free State province.
According to AfriSam’s manager - strategic projects, Gavin Venter, the plant includes a sophisticated dual batch weighing system to accurately dose the milled clinker and the mineral components to predetermined ratios in the manufacture of the different cement products.
The plant has been designed to produce the standard range of products most commonly used by local customers, including AfriSam High Strength Cement (52,5 N) for specialist concrete applications; AfriSam All Purpose Cement (42,5 N) for concrete work, block-making, plaster work and other applications; AfriSam Roadstab Cement (32,5 N) for road stabilisation; and AfriSam Starbuild (32,5 N) for applications not requiring high early-strength development.
“However, the plant can easily and quickly accommodate other blends specified by customers who have particular requirements,” Venter says.
The plant’s packing system is a 60 ton per hour, four spout in-line European design, utilised in series with a robotic arm palletiser to pack and stack the cement bags. Two stretch-wrap machines cover the palletised cement bags with a waterproof cover, so they do not need to be stored under cover; this also facilitates loading and unloading operations at the plant and larger customer sites.
Venter adds that environmental issues have been stringently addressed by equipping the plant with dust filters that prevent the generation of dust and create a dust-free operation.
During the construction of the plant – most of which was completed within six months – AfriSam made extensive use of local service providers and suppliers, including architects and civil contractors; local workers were also employed during the construction process. Today, the plant has created a number of new positions including plant management, operators and maintenance staff, as well as downstream employment opportunities.
Looking ahead, the company has plans for the plant to become a significantly larger cement manufacturing facility.
“AfriSam has already put plans in place to expand the current blending and packing facility to include a clinker grinding plant,” Venter says. “This will expand the cement manufacturing process at this facility and will lead to further opportunities and benefits for the people of Lesotho.”