Mon | Nov 30, 2020

Jampro pitching seven limestone packages to big investors

Published:Friday | June 26, 2020 | 12:12 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter

In this September 2018 file photo, export-grade, crushed limestone product is being prepared for shipping by Lydford Mining from the Ocho Rios Pier in St Ann. Jamaica is estimated to have around 150 billion tonnes of limestone deposits.
In this September 2018 file photo, export-grade, crushed limestone product is being prepared for shipping by Lydford Mining from the Ocho Rios Pier in St Ann. Jamaica is estimated to have around 150 billion tonnes of limestone deposits.

Investment promotion agency Jampro on Wednesday pitched seven limestone packages to local and investors geared at exploiting around 50 billion tonnes of reserves laying idle across Jamaica.

It is an initial step towards commercialising some 150 billion tonnes of limestone deposits over time.

The pitch, which was conducted through a webinar hosted by Jampro; Planning Institute of Jamaica, under the Foundations for Competitiveness and Growth Project; and auditing and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, comes just under a year since Jampro first heightened discussions with private-sector interests to develop a limestone production facility that would boost export while providing services to refineries.

Jampro is now hunting for prospective investors to put up between US$5.4 million and US$19.2 million – the range of capital estimated for each of the seven product categories – in limestone operations in Portland, Trelawny and St Elizabeth, which are referred to as hotspot parishes for the mineral. The payback period for the investments is estimated to be between one and four years.

Jampro has highlighted ground calcium carbonate, precipitated calcium carbonate, quicklime, slaked lime, hydraulic lime dimension stone and culture marble as the seven value-added products that will get Jamaica producing up to 60 billion tonnes of limestone aggregates and higher-priced, value-added products.

The products, according to Jampro, would be supplied to agriculture, paper, food and pharmaceuticals, construction, kitchen and bathroom end-use companies and are in high demand in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Caricom.

“What is exported at the moment represents the low value-added products, primarily aggregates and marl, and from that we only earn US$4 million. The market for value-added products in the Americas alone is over US$400 million,” PwC partner Fiona Hyman said during the webinar which had more than 100 persons in virtual attendance.

Opportunities for investors include establishment of crushing plants, a lime manufacturing plant, and a port facility for the export of limestone products.

Jamaica currently produces 3.4 million tonnes of limestone, and of that only 179,000 tonnes is exported in a global market that has a demand for 81 million tonnes of limestone valued at about US$1 billion.

There are 150 limestone mining operations in Jamaica, including three exporters: Lydford Mining, Hodges Aggregates & Powders Limited and Chemical Lime Limited. However, the volume of exports slowed when the United States temporarily closed parts of its economy to stem the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

Jampro President Diane Edwards is adamant that Jamaica can increase its foothold in the target markets in the Americas, given the country’s “open and transparent investment regime, floating exchange rate, special economic zone and manufacturing incentives, amid its close connectivity to half a billion of the world’s population in the Western Hemisphere”.

“In addition to that, Jamaica has high-grade limestone deposits of 95 per cent to 98 per cent pure calcium carbonate,” Edwards said.

In 2019, the hemisphere consumed US$2.4 billion worth of the seven value-added products being pitched by Jampro to investors, with ceramic kitchen and bathroom products accounting for the lion’s share of US$1.9 billion, or 80 per cent.

Jamaica’s limestone resources are by far the country’s largest mineral deposits, according to Vision 2030 documentation. However, the 150 limestone miners in operation mainly target the construction industry with low-end products, such as marl, stone, kiln feed, asphalt sand, concrete, construction block and animal feed. Caribbean Cement Company, which uses limestone as a raw material for cement production at its Rockfort, Kingston plant, is one of the largest investors in the market segment.

Jampro’s push towards more value-added production aligns with the Government’s Vision 2030 objective for Jamaica to regain its competitiveness in the bauxite and alumina industry, while taking greater advantage of its other mineral resources, particularly through the development of value-added products based on limestone.

The Vision 2030 programme is Jamaica’s road map towards becoming a developed country.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com