Plant dedication Lafarge holds re-dedication, announces partnership with schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Lafarge North America dedicated its new state-of-the-art Roberta cement plant in Calera last week.

The company also announced a partnership with Calera Elementary School.

Company officials were joined by U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus, Shelby County officials, Calera Mayor George Roy and others.

Philippe Rollier, president and CEO, said the Roberta plant became a part of Lafarge just last year through the purchase of Blue Circle Industries in the United Kingdom.

He said the merging of the two companies created at once &uot;the world’s largest cement supplier.&uot;

Rollier said not only did the purchase bring the company new markets in the southern tier states, it also inherited a &uot;very ambitious and very advanced project here in Calera that would double the amount of cement produced.”

The cement kiln at Calera, he said, is the largest Lafarge operates in North America.

&uot;The Roberta plant is capable of making about a million and a half tons of cement, a vital material that will contribute to the ongoing growth of Calera, Shelby County, the state of Alabama and neighboring jurisdictions,&uot; he said.

According to the company, the kiln heats to about 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit and turns powdered kiln feed into molten rock.

The quarry at Lafarge in Calera mines part of a 550 million-year-old formation.

The site contains limestone, clay and shale deposits. Most of the other minerals used to make cement are also mined on site.

&uot;I might add that under Mayor Roy’s leadership, Calera has made the necessary infrastructure investment in its own backyard to make it a more hospitable area for business and for the citizens who live here,&uot; Rollier said.

&uot;I understand, for example, there’s been a recent surge in new home building in the area.

&uot;Being in the building materials business, this makes us feel right at home. In fact, in a way, Lafarge is completing the circle by investing in the long-term future of the cement manufacturing business right here in Calera, knowing our products will help build this community for many, many years to come.&uot;

Kirk Coyne, president of the Southeast Cement Region of Lafarge, said the company is also active in the community and announced an &uot;education partnership with Calera Elementary.&uot;

According to Judy Weismann, assistant principal at Calera Elementary, the school is tutoring plant employees in math and reading in connection with the higher skills which accompany the recent plant upgrade.

She said teachers have been going to the school for four weeks &045; three days a week, two hours a day. She said plant employees have improved from getting as few as five out of 50 math answers correct to getting 42 or 48 out of 50 answers correct.

Weismann said after the plant dedication ceremony, the company gave the school $30,000 to pay for part of its Read 180 program, computers for the classroom and library technology.

While the tutoring arrangement was temporary, Weismann said the partnership with Lafarge is ongoing. She said in the past the company has helped the school with academic scholarships, T-shirts, etc. But this was the school’s first time to do something for Lafarge.

Coyne noted that Lafarge’s Southeast Cement Region serves markets in the six southeastern states of Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.

He said in this region the company has three cement plants, Calera, Atlanta and Harleyville, S.C.; two grinding operations in Florida; four cement terminals including a deep-water import terminal in Charles, S.C.; 500 employees; and annual sales of about $300 million.

Coyne said a vast majority of the Southeast Region’s operation came from the acquisition of Blue Circle in July 2001.

In October 1999, Blue Circle announced the planned expansion of the Roberta Plant and construction of the new plant beginning in June 2000.

Coyne said the first clinker from the new kiln was produced March 1, 2001, some 21 months after construction began. Cement clinker is an intermediate product that appears as small black rocks which is converted into the finished product.

The quarry in operation at

Lafarge has been in use for more than a century and provides high quality limestone, the main ingredient of cement.

&uot;I would like to thank and congratulate the construction and plant start-up teams for the efficient and rapid completion of the project,&uot; Coyne said.

&uot;We support the educational, cultural and other institutions that are part of our community. Our most recent community project is an educational partnership with Calera Elementary School. Our investment in this modern and efficient plant reinforces our commitment to a longterm economic and community relationship.&uot;

Bachus compared the state-of-the-art facilities at the Roberta plant to the technology the United States would use in a war with Iraq.

He said such technology is the way to win in war and that is &uot;also how you win in the business world … by being high tech, cutting edge.&uot;

He said Lafarge is internationally known, bringing many synergies together and investing more than $1 million per employee.

Bertand Collomb, chairman and CEO of Lafarge Group, said the marriage between Lafarge and Calera was &uot;in the stars.&uot;

He said Lafarge began in France in 1833 as a producer of lime.

He also spoke of the company’s position as a responsible member of the community.

Lafarge’s property at Calera covers about 1,600 acres and is bordered by Vulcan Materials to the north and Chemical Lime to the south. Deposits on site are limestone, clay and shale.

The quarry is 210 feet deep and 270 feet above sea level. Its proposed final depth is 270 feet below the surface and 210 feet above sea level.

The operation at Roberta requires 1.8 million tons of cement rock per year and 1.1 million tons of lime rock per year. To reach those materials, 8 million tons of other material must be moved per year.

The Roberta operation employs three salaried personnel and 30 hourly employees. It operates three eight-hour shifts, five days per week.

According to the company, the Roberta facility is actively seeking certification with the Wildlife Habitat Council, and current projects include the development of a nesting, migratory bird habitat, fish classification and population management.

Lafarge North America is the largest producer of cement and concrete in the United States and Canada and is one of the top four supplies of construction aggregate (crushed stone, sand and gravel).

The company also operates six gypsum drywall manufacture plants. And its products are used in residential, commercial, institutional and public works constructions in 46 states. Net sales in 2001 were $3.3 billion.

The Roberta cement plant at Calera has been part of the community for more than 40 years with more than 300 current and retired employees in central Alabama.

With an estimated annual capacity of 1.4 million tons, the modernized and expanded Roberta plant will be one of the largest production facilities in the Lafarge North America cement network. The plant’s new manufacturing process is one of the most energy efficient in the industry.

Calera is the Spanish word for limestone