Windhoek-With zero emissions and no waste products, Ohorongo Cement is one of the world’s most environmentally friendly factories. Its state-of-the-art machinery ensures that the factory uses 99 percent of the raw materials produced at the mine itself and further raw material locally sourced.
The mining part of the enterprise produces high quality limestone, which forms an integral part of the cement producing process as well as shale, marl and calcrete. The mine has a lifespan of 300 years.
These raw materials are then blended and iron ore, which is sourced from a local mine, is added and the materials are then heated to more than 2,000 degrees Celsius to produce clinker, which is the purest form of cement. After cooling down in the clinker cooler, clinker is transported to the clinker silo via bucket elevators. From there, it is taken to the cement grinders where gypsum, also sourced locally, and more high grade limestone are added in varying quantities to produce the three types of cement manufactured by Ohorongo.
During the whole process, the company ensures that no toxic emissions are released due to 40+ top-of-the-range filters that are installed at every phase of production.
Another impressive achievement is that the cooling process is air-cooled and no water is used during the process. Instead, Hans-Willem Schütte, the Managing Director of the company, said, “We are using our water for ablution facilities and to water our lawns.”
“Ohorongo Cement is one of the very few companies in Southern Africa that received environmental certification according to the revised 2015 standards. The company successfully received its ISO 14001: 2015 certification, which confirms its continued commitment towards sustainability and caring for the environment. Furthermore, the company is in compliance with all its licences with Namibia’s Environmental Management Act of 2007 while the environmental impact assessment processes for all the projects were completed,” Schütte enthused during a media tour of the company last week.
He further told the assembled journalists that Innovation is high on the company’s agenda, with new endeavours to replace up to 80 percent of the imported fossil fuels with alternative fuels by 2019.
Since the commissioning of the plant in 2011, it has started to make use of wood chips, charcoal fines, and refuse derived fuels to supplement the use of environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels like coal, which need to be imported from neighbouring countries like South Africa and Botswana. They are also in the construction phase of a 5MW solar plant, which is expected to go into operation by July this year
This has made Ohorongo Cement the leader in Africa in this department, without compromising product quality, Schütte said.
“Safety remains our number one priority and the ultimate goal is zero harm, which is extended to all stakeholders and the environment in which the company operates. Our motto remains: “One injury is one too many, and one fatality is one too many”, the MD further stated.
According to him, the company continues to investigate new technologies to support the short-, medium- and long-term capacity expansion, product differentiation, increased flexibility, reduced risk and the supply of all cementation products.
He further touched on the corporate responsibility of the company and informed the scribes that, through its Ohorongo Otavi Community Trust, it has donated to many worthy causes since its inception in 2008. These include the donation of cement to members of the Namibia Shack Dwellers Association to build houses as well as monetary donations. The company also donated medical equipment to various hospitals and clinics in conjunction with its German partner Support Ulms e.V.
It has also set aside N$9 million for the purchase of serviced erven for qualified staff members that are first-time homeowners. The company came to an agreement with First National Bank to provide loans to their staff. So far, five staff members qualified for bank loans to construct their house with the company sponsoring the cement. Ohorongo was allocated 30 plots in Otavi and 66 in Tsumeb. However, the Tsumeb project is currently on hold. The company has further spent extensively on staff training having sent almost 80 staff members to Germany for intensive training.
“I am happy to report that 66 of our staff remained with us,” Schütte stated. He was, however, quick to say that they would never stand in the way of employees that wish to continue their careers somewhere else.Concerning the alternative fuels being used, the company said it is contributing to additional employment opportunities as well as multiple environmental benefits to the country. Plans are afoot to burn tyres to create the heat they need to convert the raw material into quality cement.