BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe has moved to clear the air over high emissions at its Harare plant at the beginning of the month following an outcry by surrounding communities over its dust management system.
The company’s industrial director Stanley Kunzekweguta said Lafarge’s priority was to run an environmentally-sustainable operation.
He said the company was on July 31 carrying out a trial on alternative fuels by mixing coal with saw dust — a by-product from Manicaland Saw Mills — a process that resulted in a lot of emissions.
Kunzekweguta said the company, however, managed to put corrective measures and everything was under control within two days after which the incident was reported to the Environmental Management Agency in line with regulatory requirements.
“On July 31, going into August 2 we were carrying out a trial on alternative fuel which we were mixing coal with saw dust — a waste from Manicaland Saw Mill — and in this process we had high carbon dioxide levels that caused our electrostatic precipitation for dust control to switch off frequently. We had as a result a lot of emissions and complaints
He said the cement maker moved swiftly to implement corrective measures and managed to put the situation under control.
Kunzekweguta said the company was using a modern technology called the electrostatic precipitation (ESP) for dust collection.
The system uses high volume electricity to ionise the dust particles.
This was part of a sustainable development initiative the company is undertaking to contribute to environment management.
“The electronics for ESP are very sensitive for voltage variation. During this period, a destabilisation of power was experienced, causing the emissions. Power quality like voltage dips, voltage swell and voltage sags cause it to switch off. Once it stops, it stops the process of dust collection. This is when we have very thick emissions. From an operational side, we can have high carbon dioxide levels initiating the ESP to switch off as a protection against explosion,” he explained.
Kunzekweguta added that they once experienced an explosion in 2015 which saw the plant being shut for more than six months.
He, however, said they replaced it with a more modern ESP technology at a cost of US$7 million.
The company’s spokesperson Tsungie Manyeza said as a business, it was a key priority to safeguard the interests of the community and support programmes that impact thousands of people directly and indirectly.
“As such, the company has been actively engaging the neighbouring communities on any issues relating to the company’s impact on the local environment,” she added.
“We operate as a local business partner wherever we are in the world, with a deep sense of responsibility and care for our communities to ensure we always thrive together. This is why we have rigorous systems in place to verify our compliance with local laws and international regulations, lead proactive community relations and conduct regular due diligence audits to ensure we live by our code of business conduct.”
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA