The UK investment firm MerchantBridge and France’s Lafarge are planning to build a new cement plant close to the facility they are currently rehabilitating at Karbala in Iraq.

The greenfield plant will be an independent project and have a capacity of around 2 million tonnes-a-year (t/y), says Ameen Killidar, managing director, MerchantBridge.

“We are hoping to begin engineering work this year and have been allocated land by the Iraq government,” he adds. “While the new plant is our secondary concern behind the rehabilitation [of the Karbala cement plant] as that project progresses we will devote more time to this project.”

Major Iraq cement projects
Project Capacity Completion date
Dohuk cement plant 2.2 million t/y 2011
Karbala cement plant  2 million t/y 2013
Sulaymaniyah cement plant  1.9 million t/y  2012
t/y=Tonnes a year. Source: MEED Projects

Merchant Bridge and Lafarge are the joint venture partners behind the $200m Karbala cement plant rehabilitation project. When completed the plant will have a production of around 2 million-t/y and be leased from the Iraq government for a period of 15 years (MEED 21:4:10).

“The greenfield plant will be an independent project, but if the Iraq government wanted us to integrate the two facilities then we would be prepared to look at that,” Killidar says. However, nothing has been discussed in that regards yet.”

Killidar adds that the Karbala plant rehabilitation is on schedule and due to be completed by March 2013.     

“The process is ongoing and we have inserted our management on the plant since we took control in October [2010],” he says. “Some work has started and other contracts are currently out to tender.”

The plant is located around 90 kilometres to the east of the city of Karbala and around 230km from the border with Saudi Arabia.

Lafarge is the world’s largest cement manufacturer and has identified Iraq as a key growth market. It intends to produce around 10 million-t/y of cement in the Gulf state after its expansion plans are complete.

Iraq imports around 10 million-t/y of cement and has a consumption of around 15 million-t/y. However, both figures are expected to rise dramatically in the coming years due to the country’s massive rebuilding plan.