Yongwase-Krobo (E/R), Nov. 17, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday unveiled a plaque for the beginning of mining of local limestone deposit for the production of Portland cement by GHACEM at Yongwase-Krobo in the Eastern Region.
The two million dollars investments by GHACEM include the mining and crushing machinery, transport equipment and other permanent site installations.
GHACEM uses imported raw materials such as clinker, limestone and gypsum in the manufacture of cement and the for the first time in their 37 years operation in Ghana, would be using locally sourced limestone as replacement for imported limestone.
The Limestone Quarry Project that is estimated to be in operation for about 20 years would create about 100 direct jobs in quarry operation, security, transport and other direct services mostly through sub-contractors of GHACEM.
President Kufuor said the country's huge deposits of limestone had remained unexploited due to political instability, unstable macro-economy, inadequate institutional and infrastructural support, poor service delivery and generally unfriendly investor climate. He said together, these conditions undermined investors' interest in the potentially rich national assets that included limestone deposits.
President Kufuor, therefore, commended the Management of GHACEM for taking such a strategic and historic step that would instead of using only imported raw materials for the production of cement it was introducing the use of local limestone.
He said decision by GHACEM to exploit the limestone deposits was a confirmation that investors were responding positively to the Government's policies, including the policy to add value to the nation's raw materials.
"I applaud GHACEM for supporting the Government's value addition policy", he said.
President Kufuor said the Government's expectation was that the effort of GHACEM would spur other companies on to invest in exploiting and adding value to the nation's minerals and other local resources, adding " the Government would continue to support investments in these areas with attractive and rewarding incentives".
He reminded the Management of GHACEM and other local cement producers of the high competition on the market for imported cement and the need for a continual pursuit of best production and marketing practices to benefit the Ghanaian consumer.
Mr Jean-Marc Junon, Chief Operating Officer of Heidelberg Cement Group for Africa, said GHACEM was one of the largest and most reliable contributors to Ghana's economy in terms of taxes, port fees, import duties and employment.
He said in 2003, GHACEM contributed 12 million dollars in taxes and other fees to the Government's revenue, while the GHACEM Cement Foundation established about two years ago had donated 70,000 bags of cement to schools and health institutions throughout the country at a cost of about 3.2 billion cedis.
Mr Junon, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of GHACEM, appealed to the Government for fair competition in the production of cement in the country because GHACEM had been enjoying a zero per cent duty on imported raw materials for the production of cement until March 2002 when their raw materials attracted a five per cent import duty.
He said this applied to only GHACEM while other competitors in the industry enjoyed duty free import from Togo under the ECOWAS protocol, adding " the cement market in Ghana would attract even tougher competition in the years to come with possible entry of new players". Mr Bjarne Schmidt, Managing Director of GHACEM, said the mining of the limestone was a practical demonstration of their commitment to invest in not only the urban areas but also the rural areas as well to bring employment and prosperity to rural areas. "This is actually a win - win situation for Ghana and GHACXEM", he said.
The Government of Ghana in collaboration with Norcem in Norway on August 30, 1967 established GHACEM.
Scancem International, which is a subsidiary of Heidelberg Cement, an international German based cement producer, owns GHACEM. Heidelberg Cement is among the world's biggest cement producers and currently active in 50 countries. It has about 42,000 employees and annual sales of about 70 million tonnes of cement.