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Monday, Feb 02, 2004

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Kymore plant to go the conveyor route

Indrani Dutta

COME August and ACC Ltd will have its 2.25-million tonne capacity cement plant commissioned at Kymore in Chhattisgarh. The entire quantity of limestone, an estimated six million tonnes to be required annually, will be transported by a 11-km long steel cord conveyor belting system linking the plant with the Nehagaon limestone mine. For the first time such a long steel cord conveyor belting system will be used in any cement plant in the country for transportation purpose.

But then, this is not for the first time a cement manufacturer is using a steel cord conveyor belt. A similar system is already in place in ACC's plant in Himachal Pradesh. Larsen & Toubro also uses a steel cord conveyor facility to transport cement from its Rajula plant in Gujarat to a nearby jetty for onward movement by waterway. However, the length of the conveyor system in these plants is much smaller than what is being installed at Kymore, where the total conveyor system will cover 22 km (to and fro).

The cost of the Kymore plant's conveyor system, to be supplied in April, is estimated at Rs 8.75 crore. The LoI was issued in December 2003.

The conveyor system will replace road transportation at Kymore and, therefore, substantially reduce air pollution caused by limestone particles flying from open trucks covering a distance of 15 km. Safety and reliability are other considerations, which are believed to have weighed in favour of installing the system, in preference to the road transportation.

The long distance conveyor technology was not available in India till recently, said Mr Amit Kumar Dutta, Head of Technology Marketing & Development of Phoenix Yule Ltd (PYL), an Indo-German joint venture responsible for installing the conveyor system in the Kymore project. "The lowering of import tariffs on steel and rubber compounds (key raw materials for a steel cord conveyor belt) has increased the affordability of the system," Mr Dutta told Business Line recently.

ACC, as it was pointed out, had conceived the Kymore project nearly 10 years ago, but took concrete steps towards its implementation only recently, presumably after PYL had developed the product at its Kalyani plant in West Bengal. The installation of the system at Kymore proved to be daunting for ACC as it involved relocation of villages through which the conveyor system would pass, excavation of mountains and skirting around railway tracks. A global tender, therefore, was floated and PYL won the contract in the face of stiff competition. Within the country, PYL, it was claimed, faced little competition in the steel cord segment commanding a major share of the market, especially after the closure of Dunlop. In the textile conveyor segment, it has a 20 per cent market share, the other players being MRF and Nirlon Semprit (an Indo-French joint venture).

PYL was born following the Union Government's disinvestment decision. Andrew Yule's 74 per cent stake was picked up by Phoenix AG. Andrew Yule was already engaged in the manufacture of nylon fabric as well as steel cord belts. The joint venture commenced its operations in February 1999 with the German parent having already invested about Rs 10 crores for bringing new technology and expansion of the Kalyani unit.

Phoenix AG has already been awarded the LoI for erecting a 34-km long conveyor belting system for Lafarge Cement for transporting limestone from Shella in Meghalaya to Chatak in Bangladesh. The route traverses mountainous terrain and involves a stretch which will be like a ropeway, slung six metres above the ground-level. The LoI has been awarded by L&T, which is the EPC contractor for the project, billed as the single largest troughed conveyor belt system in the world. PYL will serve as the major manufacturing and servicing centre for its parent in regard to this project. On its own, PYL is also in talks with some customers for a similar project in Gujarat.

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