By Crusoe Osagie
AshakaCem Plc, a subsidiary of Lafarge Group, has launched a development programme for the coming years that should increase its capacity from the existing 900,000 tonnes to 3 million tonnes.
The decision, taken during the company’s board meeting, will see the cement manufacturers injecting fresh funds to ramp up production capacity and eventually triple its current annual output.
The Board of Directors announced that technical feasibility studies on raw material reserves, power and infrastructures undertaken by the company were progressing well, particularly with regards to additional limestone and coal reserves that were at an advanced stage.
It also mentioned the importance of conducting financing and operational reviews of the project so that the company will be able to benefit from Lafarge technical, operational and financial resources in the country, in order to ensure the success of this unprecedented development.
Lafarge, as majority shareholder of Ashaka, gives great importance to Nigeria in its emerging markets portfolio and is committed to strengthening its existing businesses and develop new activities in this country.
The board recognised the contributions of Lafarge towards enhancing AshakaCem’s performance and current production capacity, in particular the company’s initiatives in the usage of coal from Gombe State to substitute expensive imported fuel oil and the increase of clinker and cement production.
AshakaCem’s vision is to remain the most preferred supplier to its customers and its willingness to make additional efforts to create more local business opportunities, in partnership with its surrounding communities. The Board is confident to accelerate AshakaCem’s development plans and assured that there had been significant progress on implementing phase 1 of the expansion.
It also mentioned that such a plan is founded on the strong support that the company has received from neighbouring communities and from the Government of Gombe state.
The Board expressed the importance of local communities and government agencies maintaining this support to enable progress on the many initiatives being undertaken by AshakaCem to continue.
During 2011, Ashaka invested N175 million in the local communities, chiefly in the areas of education, village infrastructure and health development. This year’s special programmes have included providing 6-month vocational courses in different market skills for 70 local youths. In addition the company is also completing a project to provide electrification for 3 villages in Maiganga where it operates its coal mines.