Mainland going big into block-making, quarrying(Jamaica) Hardware company Mainland International is investing US$1 million in a limestone quarry and concrete block-making factory that will deepen its vertical integration and allow it to take advantage of what is expected to be a boom in the construction industry.The new enterprise is being constructed close to Mainland’s Ironshore division in St James. Ground will be officially be broken for the project in December.Mainland’s main retail and distribution centre and corporate headquarters is located in Spanish Town.”The construction business in St James and the western end of the island is thriving now so we wanted to get a piece of the action,” said Kurt Dewdney, managing director of Joshan Blocks Limited and Joshan Aggregates – both Mainland affiliates. “A lot of hotels and houses and new businesses are going up.” The factory will have a production capacity of 12,000 blocks per day, as well as 1,200 tons of limestone aggregate.”The operation should be up and running within the first quarter,” said Dewdney, who expects all of the output from the two operations to be taken up by Mainland’s Ironshore retail outlet. The branch is currently supplied by four blockmakers.The quarry and block-making factory will be located on leased lands in Palmyra, outside of Rose Hall, making haulage costs to Mainland’s Ironshore store minimal.The operation will be Mainland’s third venture in blockmaking and aggregate mining, the others being a 1,600-ton per day limestone aggregate quarry in Paul Mountain, St Catherine which it took over in June, and the former Reid’s Block Factory in May Pen which it bought a year ago. The block factory produces about 12,000 blocks per day. “What led us to the aggregate business was the block factory,” explained Dewdney. “It was hard to find good block mix; the calcium content in the stone has to be tough and not break apart.” Also, Paul Mountain quarry couldn’t supply Mainland on a regular basis, he said.The aggregate quarry in Paul Mountain, St Catherine, which Mainland acquired, supplies several paving companies with 3/4 inch stones, including General Pavings, and Surrey Paving. It also supplies Rugby International with three inch stones to produce burnt limestone for Jamaica.Construction industry experts say that a huge demand exists for class A concrete blocks (8 inch, load-bearing) from production outfits that are up-to-code.Of the estimated 130 million class A concrete blocks that are produced in Jamaica each year, about 90 million are made in informal operations. The Bureau of Standards lists only 16 registered block manufacturers.At least one other hardware store is known to be eyeing the block-making business seriously – Phil’s Hardware, which is looking at setting up a large operation at its Twickenham Park location.There are about 70 limestone aggregate quarries on the island – many of which operate intermittently. About 10 million tons of limestone products are mined annually – 3.4 million tons of which are limestone aggregate, and 6.4 million tons of which are marl.
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