JORF LASFAR, Morocco—ContiTech A.G. is expanding its conveyor belt operation in Morocco to handle a growing phosphate market.
In cooperation with state-owned phosphate producer OCP S.A., the company has begun constructing a new production plant in Jorf Lasfar that is expected to span 66,000 square feet on a 247,570 sq.-ft. plot of land, which will give it plenty of room to expand if needed. It will create about 120 jobs.
ContiTech expects to complete construction of the factory and add new and used machinery by mid-2016, a company spokeswoman said. The first conveyor belts produced at the site are set to be shipped in the fall of 2016, according to Claus Peter Spille, vice president of the Mining World segment within the ContiTech Conveyor Belt Group.
Financial details were not released, but he said the firm will be investing double digit million euros in the Jorf Lasfar plant.
Its newest facility will manufacture about 180 kilometers of rubber-coated textile and steel cord reinforced conveyor belts annually, he said at a foundation stone laying ceremony in Jorf Lasfar.
A large portion of the belts will be needed in Morocco to extract mineral resources, Spille said. “In the long term, however, we want to use our facilities in Morocco to serve customers in other parts of Africa—and in other parts of the world. This location is clearly positioned for further growth and will strengthen our global presence.”
He said the new plant will allow ContiTech to expand its service quality, simplify logistics and support the country's economy.
Morocco has the largest phosphate reserves in the world, according to Hannes Friederichsen, who heads ContiTech's conveyor belt group. Spille said the company's cooperative agreement with OCP along with the new factory “will strengthen our commitment to this important market.”
ContiTech and OCP have had a strong working relationship for 20 years, said OCP Vice Chairman Mustaoha El Ouafi. “Our large production capacities are supported by mining and production facilities of the highest caliber, equipped with large conveyor systems that enable them to provide a continuous transport service.”
More than 700 kilometers of conveyor belts are being used in the OCP system, among them belts manufactured by Hanover, Germany-based Conti-Tech.
“Demand for phosphate has been growing for years and so has the need for transport,” Spille said. Because of that, he added, making conveyor belts in Morocco was the obvious next step.
ContiTech, a subsidiary of Continental Corp., and OCP have spent the last few years looking for a way to set up a plant in the country, he said, until they found the right location: Jorf Lasfar, which is easily accessible and has the reliable workers the company needed.
Friederichsen said at the foundation stone laying ceremony that it is not an easy time to grow while remaining profitable.
“Drops in energy and raw material prices are presenting our industry with great challenges,” he said. “Durability and low maintenance are becoming increasingly significant.”
But because the company has been in the conveyor belt business for more than 100 years, he said it has a great deal of experience, “something that works to our customers' advantage.
“Our belts can often be used for 15 or 20 years before a replacement is required—a key factor in the economical operation of mines.”