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Beneficiation - Building for the future: PPC celebrates 125 years

By Robyn Grimsley

Since the establishment of De Eerste Cement Fabrieken Beperkt back in 1892, PPC has grown to become South Africa’s largest cement producer. Over the past 125 years, the company has achieved several milestones and contributed to some of South Africa’s most iconic structures.

For well over a century, PPC has tracked the growth and the development of South Africa and Zimbabwe, producing cement for many iconic landmarks, including the Union Buildings, the Kariba Dam, the Gautrain, the Huguenot Tunnel, and Medupi Power Station, as well as much of southern Africa’s infrastructure.

Founded in 1892 as De Eerste Cement Fabrieken Beperkt, PPC’s Hercules factory outside
of Pretoria is still operating today. 
Image credit: Robyn Grimsley

Cementing materials have been widely used since ancient times, with Egyptians using calcined gypsum as cement, and the Greeks and Romans using lime and sand for mortar, adding coarser stones to make concrete. The Romans also discovered that adding crushed volcanic ash to lime created a cement that would set under water — perfect for constructing harbours.

Huguenot Tunnel entrance
The northern entrance to the Huguenot Tunnel on the N1 highway in the Western Cape province of South Africa. 
Image credit: Zaian

But it wasn’t until 1824 that the precursor of modern Portland cement was created by British stone mason Joseph Aspdin, who took out a patent for ‘Portland cement’: a mixture of finely-ground clay and limestone fired until the limestone was calcined. The first significant use of this proto-Portland cement was in a tunnel under the Thames River in 1828. Two decades after Aspdin patented his cement, the first truly modern Portland cement was produced by Isaac Johnson, who fired a mix of chalk and clay at much higher temperatures than Aspdin did (1 400–1 500°C), forming minerals that are very reactive and more strongly cementitious.

Just under half a century later, in 1892, South Africa’s first cement plant was established on the outskirts of Pretoria by Edouard Lippert under the name De Eerste Cement Fabrieken Beperkt, to counter the exorbitant cost of importing cement from Europe. This same facility, today known as PPC’s Hercules cement plant, is still in operation today, 125 years after it was first established.

Ten years after the establishment of the plant, in 1902, De Eerste Cement Fabrieken Beperkt changed its name to The First Portland Cement Factory Limited, and six years after that it changed again, this time to the name we all know today: Pretoria Portland Cement. In 1910, 18 years after its inception, PPC was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. In the 107 years since that listing, the company has grown to become South Africa’s largest cement producer, surviving two world wars, several recessions, and the booms and busts of the cement market.

The Union Building At Sunrise
PPC has produced the cement used to build many of South Africa’s iconic landmarks, including the Union Buildings in Pretoria. 
Image credit: Alan Yates

Today, PPC has 11 cement factories in South Africa, Botswana, DRC, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, and an annual production capacity of around 11.5 million tonnes of cement products. The company’s materials business comprises Safika Cement, Pronto Readymix (including Ulula Ash), and 3Q Mahuma Concrete, and in the ready-mix sector its footprint has grown to include 26 batching plants across South Africa and Mozambique.

In addition to its cement products, PPC produces aggregates through its Mooiplaas aggregates quarry, as well as metallurgical-grade lime, burnt dolomite, and limestone through PPC Lime.



Edouard Lippert gets permission from Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal Republic, to build the first local cement factory outside of Pretoria.


Edouard Lippert registers De Eerste Cement Fabrieken Beperkt.


De Eerste Cement Fabrieken Beperkt changes its name to The First Portland Cement Factory Limited.


The First Portland Cement Factory changes its name to the Pretoria Portland Cement Company Limited and declares its first dividend.


PPC is listed on the JSE.


PPC’s new Slurry factory in the North West Province produces its first cement.


PPC establishes the Cape Portland Cement Company and builds a factory at De Hoek.


PPC floats the Eastern Province Cement Company and builds a cement factory on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.


PPC’s Jupiter factory in Germiston produces its first cement.


PPC purchases property that will eventually become the Riebeeck operation.


PPC commissions its new factory in Orkney.


PPC begins the planning and construction of the Riebeeck cement factory.


PPC’s Slurry operation converts from the wet process to the dry mix system.


The Riebeeck cement factory is commissioned.


PPC becomes a subsidiary of the Barlow Rand Group.

The Cape Portland Cement Company becomes a full subsidiary of PPC.

PPC acquires the Northern Lime Company and enters the lime market.


PPC’s Dwaalboom cement plant is completed, but mothballed due to the economic recession.


PPC celebrates its centenary year.


PPC signs an agreement with Botswana Development Corporation to construct a cement blending plant and depot in Gaborone.


PPC commissions its Gaborone cement blending plant and depot.

PPC launches its SureBuild general purpose cement to the Botswana market.

PPC acquires the Laezonia quarry in Muldersdrift.


PPC’s materials handling facility at Saldanha Steel in the Western Cape comes online.


The mothballed Dwaalboom plant is recommissioned.


PPC acquires the Kgale quarry in Botswana.


PPC acquires ownership of Portland Holdings Limited, Zimbabwe’s top cement company.

PPC purchases the Mooiplaas dolomite quarry on the outskirts of Pretoria.


PPC is included in the FTSENSE Top 40 Companies index.


PPC becomes a constituent of the JSE Socially Responsible Investment Index.


PPC is unbundled from Barloworld.


PPC establishes its first broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) transaction.


PPC achieves Level 3 B-BBEE contributor rating.

PPC launches South Africa’s first 3-D branded cement tankers.


PPC achieves Level 2 B-BBEE contributor rating, the highest in the cement industry.

PPC celebrates 100 years on the JSE.


PPC acquires three aggregate quarries from Quarries of Botswana for USD6.8-million.


PPC and IDC jointly acquire a 47% equity stake (USD21-million) in Ethiopia’s Habesha Cement Share Company.

PPC announces its second-phase B-BBEE transaction, resulting in 26% black ownership of PPC South Africa.

PPC launches its Express Outlet Pilot Project to local entrepreneurs.

PPC’s Nolwandle Mantashe is named Transformation Champion of the Year at the 2012 Van Ryn’s Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards.

Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) Company Limited changes its name to PPC Ltd.


PPC signs MoU with DRC’s Barnet Group to build USD230-million cement factory in DRC.

PPC Zimbabwe announces its plans to construct a new cement plant to service the Harare and central Mozambique markets.


PPC Barnet DRC signs engineering contract with China’s Sinoma International Engineering Company for construction of DRC cement plant.

PPC launches SureBuild cement to Zimbabwean market.

PPC launches Cement and Concrete Cube (C3), a subject-specific information-sharing platform for cement and concrete.


PPC Zimbabwe breaks ground at its Msasa plant.

PPC launches PPC Imaginarium Awards.


PPC Zimbabwe officially commissions new Harare mill.


Understanding Cement. ‘Cement history’. 

Portland Cement Association. 2017. ‘History of Portland Cement’. 


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