A total of 19 local investors were awarded at the end of 2005 40-year licences to develop cement plants across the country, excluding the northern Kurdish areas. The plants, which will have a minimum production capacity of 750,000 t/y each, will be built in five provinces: Anbar (eight), Muthana (six), Kerbala (three), Najaf (two) and Ninawa (one).

The investors have until September to secure financing and approach international partners, including cement producers, equipment suppliers or investors. The licensors, which are exempt from customs duties on imported fixed assets, spare parts and income tax for the first three years, have also been given a second licence from the General Directorate of Geological Survey & Mining to extract limestone when production begins. ‘The plants on average will cost about $100 million, although some of the bigger ones proposed could go beyond the $300 million mark,’ says a source at the ministry. The local investors have agreed to begin civil work within 12 months of receiving their licence and complete the plants within three years. They will be required to provide a separate power station for each plant with the ministry estimating a 20-MW plant for every 1 million t/y of capacity. ‘This is my main concern,’ said one investor. ‘When we finish our plants, where will the power come from? Even if we build a power plant, there is no fuel because there aren’t enough refineries.’