Indian cement firm moves to Pokot site

Workers mix cement at a construction site. Kenya’s building sector is amongst the most rapidly growing, raising demand for cement. Photo/Joseph Kanyi |FILE
Workers mix cement at a construction site. Kenya’s building sector is amongst the most rapidly growing, raising demand for cement. Photo/Joseph Kanyi |FILE 

Indian conglomerate Sanghi Group’s Cemtech has moved construction material on site in preparation for the building of a Sh12 billion cement factory in West Pokot County.

Cemtech Company director Rajesh Rawal said in an interview the firm has secured approvals for commencement of the first phase of the multi-billion shilling project.

“We have acquired the certifications necessary for start of the preliminary processes,” said Mr Rawal, indicating however that ground-breaking will start in the next two weeks after final approval to start the actual construction.

The first phase of the project will involve construction of internal roads linking the mines and the factory site, establishment of perimeter walls and setting up of prefabricated houses for workers and staff.

The first phase will also comprise the construction of an administration block, platforms on which the machines will be erected, followed by the delivery of threshing machines, excavators, tractors and trucks.

The Sh12 billion factory is scheduled to be fully completed in about 18-20 months, with cement production expected to begin in 24 months. Annual production is projected at 24 million bags. The firm will use coal to fuel the manufacture of clinker, a main ingredient in cement production.

Cemtech is betting on the start of production at the Kitui mines for supply of coal.

In a progress report to West Pokot's government, Cemtech indicates that it has obtained certification for the project from the Kenya Investment Authority, exclusive mining rights for limestone for 99 years from the county government, and an Environmental Impact Assessment licence from the National Environment Management Authority.

The West Pokot County deputy governor Titus Lotee has expressed optimism that the investment will create jobs and other social services that may come in the form of corporate social responsibility.

“Services as water, schools, electricity and roads are expected to be provided by the investor to help in poverty alleviation and better livelihoods,” said Mr Lotee.

Cemtech has had to overcome numerous hurdles in its pursuit of the mining contract including the issue of compensation for displaced locals and getting regulatory approvals, all of which have delayed the project by about four years.

Surveys conducted in the area showed large limestone deposits enough to supply about 300,000 tonnes of the stones annually and about 5.9 tonnes of limestone in reserves. Other studies indicate that the region is endowed with more than 35 other minerals, including gold and gemstones.

Besides production of cement, Cemtech also intends to produce 30 megawatts of power.

A number of West Pokot youths interviewed said the old-age menace of cattle rustling may end of reduce significantly with the provision of job opportunities for the locals.

“Youths will be financially empowered and will definitely leave cattle theft and raids for other promising businesses,” said 21 year-old Geoffrey Kiptum.