ASIA SEEN AS PROMISING MARKET FOR CNMI ASH

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 8) – A mining expert hired by the Department of Public Lands says Pagan's pozzolan has a potential market in Asia.

In his second report to DPL, consultant John W. Wilson said industry trends favor the use of Pagan pozzolan in Asian markets, including China, India, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines.

Wilson said the increased use of blended cements enhances the potential appeal of the Pagan pozzolan deposits. Blended cements are reportedly gaining popularity because they improve concrete characteristics and provide a means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions involved in making cement.

He noted, however, that there are competitive products that can be used in blended cement at a much lower cost. For example, waste materials such as fly ash from fossil fuel burning and slag from steel making. These pozzolans are being used more extensively-not only as filler but also as a strength-improving additive.

Wilson's review of world economic trends showed that a dramatic increase in Portland cement use in recent years. According to his report, world cement consumption increased by 457 million metric tons from 2002 to 2005, an increase of 25 percent.

Wilson said the entire United States averaged only 112 million tons a year during the three-year period. Most of the growth was caused by the construction boom in China, which accounted for 45 percent of world consumption in 2005.

Citing a new study from a Cleveland-based industry research firm, Wilson also reported the demand for cement is expected to grow 4.7 percent annually in the next three years. By 2010, demand will reach 3.1 billion tons valued at more than US$200 billion.

China is projected to register the biggest increase and surpass the combined demand of the next two largest markets, India and the United States, Wilson said.

"The production of Portland cement alone may not be enough to meet these demands, consequently the pozzolan found on Pagan island may be considered a convenient substitute for Portland cement for manufacturing blended cement.

"The quality of the Pagan pozzolan is such that it can be used a supplementary cementitious material in countries such as China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and other Pacific Rim countries as well as India.

"With the increasing demand for cement projected up to 2020, several major cement companies may be interested in recovering the pozzolan deposits on Pagan Island to meet their production requirements in the future," Wilson wrote in his report.

Wilson's first report revealed that only 11.9 million metric tons of pozzolan remain available on Pagan.

He also said he was not very successful in developing information regarding costs and selling prices of cement. He said production costs vary worldwide, depending on local fuel, electricity and labor costs. Sales costs also vary because some countries have price or import controls which limit competition. In addition, corporations and end users of cement seldom publish their costs because the cement industry is so competitive.

Wilson also collected incomplete data about shipping costs for cement in Asia. He said shipping from Taiwan to the U.S. West Coast range from US$25 to $30 per ton. He concluded that the cost of transporting pozzolan from Pagan or Saipan would depend on the ownership of the vessels-the cement company, shipping company or other third party-used for bulk shipments.

Wilson's report included background information on about a dozen major cement companies operating in Asia. He provided their historical information, scope of operations, revenue figures for recent years, location of plants, specialized products, and expansion plans.

DPL Secretary John S. Del Rosario Jr. said Wilson's report provides a thorough discussion of market conditions facing the CNMI in developing the pozzolan on Pagan.

"The governor and I are very appreciative of Dr. Wilson's research and conclusions. After the Task Force has an opportunity to discuss Dr. Wilson's two reports, we will surely be asking him to help us further in pursuing this matter. More delay-after a decade of inaction-will further limit the Commonwealth's opportunity to benefit from the market trends so clearly set forth in Dr. Wilson's report," Del Rosario said.

A question over rights to conduct mining operations on Pagan is still pending in court.

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