Whale Rock sets sights on Swakopmund

Town council considers cement plant proposal

03 December 2018 | Infrastructure

Engineering services department: “. . . given the known complications with water supply to the coast, this industry should not be considered.”

Jessica Botes

A proposal by Whale Rock Cement to construct a cement and clinker grinding plant in Swakopmund is being considered by the town council.

Some concerns were, however, raised by the municipality’s engineering services department following a presentation made by Whale Rock on 7 November 2017.

The Swakopmund plant will be supplied with clinker from the company’s main plant in Otjiwarongo to produce cement. Clinker is one of the main ingredients in cement manufacturing. It is grey stone particles that are ground with limestone to produce cement.

Trading under the name Cheetah Cement the Otjiwarongo plant initially had planned to start production in January this year. But discussions with local producers of clinker, whom they had hoped could supply the factory, did not work out. The company now imports bulk clinker from Egypt via Walvis Bay to Otjiwarongo.

The factory carried out its first blast to excavate limestone at its mine pit on Farm Cleveland in February this year.

In its presentation the company indicated that clinker will be obtained from Otjiwarongo, Outjo, Omaruru and Karibib. The engineering department is concerned that these towns are far from Swakopmund and even if train lines are used, the cost of transporting the materials will be enormous.

“This cost was not clearly identified in the presentation in the form of a feasibility study or even a business plan. There is no promise of a guarantee that the development will in fact take place.”

Another concern is that the plant’s electricity requirements are a lot more than the town can supply.

“Such an increase in the amount of power will burden the power distribution infrastructure of NamPower and negatively impact Swakopmund as the cost of the upgrade of the power lines or substations will be recovered from the region and not the cement manufacturer.”

Similarly, the engineering department is concerned that the plant’s water consumption of 9 000 m³/d is more than what Swakopmund uses in total.

“Thus, given the known complications with water supply to the coast, this industry should not be considered.”

The process of manufacturing cement is also classified as a noxious industry and will require a detailed environmental impact assessment.

“It is therefore considered prudent that the applicant should complete a full environmental assessment before any possible application of land can be considered.”

In spite of these concerns, Whale Rock indicated on 25 June that they intend to proceed with their application and proposed that it leases a piece of land from council until such time as all plans have been approved and clearance certificates have been obtained. It then intends to buy the land and construct a cement and clinker grinding plant.

During a special municipal management committee meeting on 11 September, the engineering department’s concerns were discussed and it was proposed that Whale Rock be directed to apply for a portion of land at the Nonidas Siding.

“Here the applicant can apply to get water and electricity supplied from NamWater and NamPower through council’s accounting system or contribute pro-rata to the construction of additional storage capacity.”

Council dismissed Whale Rock’s application to obtain a piece of land in the industrial area of Swakopmund in the vicinity of the water reservoirs.