MAC: Mines and Communities

Is "sustainable Cement" All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Published by MAC on 2004-08-19

Is "sustainable cement" all it's cracked up to be?

Cement companies make greater play of controlling pollution than any other sector of the mining industry. They need to - partly because cement manufacturers are one of the world's most significant contributors to global warming and acid rain; partly because their quarries and kilns are usually more visible to the public than metallic mines. Now Britain's RMC - the biggest ready mix cement producer in the world - says it can reduce SO2 plant emissions by three quarters, avoid gypsum wastes, and has found a new use for all those un-recyclable green bottles standing on the wall.

Hot on the heels of RMC, with its own boasts of sustainability, comes France's Lafarge (which has a programme with WWF), Switzerland's Holcim (second in size only to Lafarge) and Germany's HeidelbergCement.

The Swiss company - which has just chalked up a record net profit for the first half of 2004 - plans to construct a coal fired cement plant right up against one of New York's most affluent communities. And many residents don't like the idea.

Heidelberg, with the support of the World Bank, is now using its three Indonesian locations to showcase carbon reduction, by burning so-called "alternative fuels" (co-incineration). It promises that income from sales of its "carbon credits" will benefit poor Indonesians. The company and the Bank also claim that Indonesia is the first country to employ carbon emissions trading in the context of cement production.

However, just before the launch of this initiative, the distressed fisherfolk of Rampa Island in South Kalimantan protested that Heidelberg's rock dumping was threatening their livelihoods.

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