Our Corporate Communications staff spend time getting to know Sumitomo Corporation's different business sites around the world, reporting on how the people at those sites work. We will keep you up to date with the world of Sumitomo Corporation, which extends to every corner of the globe.
Production Team, Corporate Communications Department
Ayumi Shogase joined the Group in 2002 as one of the first new hires at the new Harumi headquarters. After heading up new project development and administration of operational companies for the content business and the TV shopping business in the Media Division, Shogase was assigned to the Corporate Communications Department in 2008, where she has since gained a range of experience on three teams: Planning, Mass Media Relations, and Production. Based on her belief that purchasing Sumitomo Group brand products and spending her money at Group stores demonstrates her loyalty to the Group, she selflessly devotes huge amounts of her energies to shopping. The scarf she is wearing in the photograph is made by Naracamicie.
The Ambatovy Project
The Ambatovy mine in Madagascar is under development as one of the world’s largest nickel/cobalt mines. The Ambatovy Project is a joint-venture partnership between four companies from three countries: Canadian natural resource company Sherritt International, South Korean government enterprise Korea Resources, Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, and Sumitomo Corporation. The project will establish an integrated production system encompassing all stages from mining to refinery in Madagascar. It is also the first resource development project in which Japan and South Korea, two major nickel consuming countries, have joined forces.
On the island of Madagascar in the western Indian Ocean, Sumitomo Corporation is working on the final stage before the operational launch of one of the world’s largest nickel/cobalt mining ventures, the Ambatovy Project. In December 2010, I was given an opportunity to visit the site as the first Corporate Communications Department staff member to officially travel in Africa.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see the famous baobab trees that grow in the southwestern part of Madagascar, which is on the opposite side of the island to the project site.
This was my first trip to Africa and all I knew about Madagascar was that is an island off the southeast coast of Africa. After some research, I found out that it is the world’s fourth-largest island with an area 1.6 times greater than Japan and has very unique flora and fauna, including the aye-aye, which is a primate featured in a children’s song I sang as a child, and the baobab tree, which appears in the children’s book, The Little Prince.
Twenty-eight hours (including the waiting time for two connecting flights) after leaving Tokyo, I arrived at Antananarivo, the capital of the Republic of Madagascar. One of the first things I saw when I got off the plane was a poster for the Ambatovy Project, which contained the message “Welcome to Madagascar” in Malagasy, French, English, Japanese and Korean, as well as the names of the four stakeholders, including Sumitomo Corporation. In a country whose GDP is under 10 billion dollars, the project, which is expected to generate an annual export income of several billion dollars and increase tax revenue by over 0.1 billion dollars, is drawing a great deal of attention. I heard that newspapers carried articles on the project almost every day, even though the site had not yet even begun operations.
An Ambatovy poster with text, from the top, in Malagasy, French, English, and Japanese, welcomed me at the airport.
On my way from the airport to the city center, I saw lush rice fields outside the window. Although Madagascar is geographically near Africa, its culture has been greatly influenced by Asia. Malagasy people reportedly consume three times as much rice as the Japanese. There is also an abundance of delicious French cuisine as the country was a French territory until 1960. I had no trouble at all eating the local food during my trip.
Seeking to contribute to the development of Madagascar, the Ambatovy Project has built plant facilities for ore processing and refining. Although building and operating a plant in an island country without infrastructure or engineers poses various difficulties, exporting nickel and cobalt with added value serves the national interest of Madagascar. Furthermore, operating the refinery in-country creates additional employment. The life of the mine is expected to be about 30 years, but local people will be able to acquire processing and refinery skills for life.
Four 7-meter high containers lined up next to the vessel serve as funnels through which lime and other materials unloaded from ships are transferred to the belt conveyer.
The project’s factory is located in Toamasina, , about 40 minutes away from the capital of Antananarivo by direct flight. In this island country, the port plays an essential role in the project, both for the import of supplies and the export of products.
The improvement and expansion of the port was needed, however, before the factory could be built and equipment procured. This meant building an exclusive new quay that could accommodate 50 thousand-ton vessels. Now, 2.8 million tons of limestone, coal, and sulfur from all over the world go through this port every year for use at the factory. Facilities for unloading raw materials from vessels docked at the quay and transporting them by belt conveyer and railway to the factory were already in place.
All of the plant’s key facilities, such as the power station, have been doubled. People from 78 countries have been involved in the construction.
The project’s mine is inside the mountain at the heart of the island. Soil dug out of the mine is delivered in the form of muddy water, via a 220-km long pipeline, to the factory in the suburbs of Toamasina. The factory is in fact a giant chemical plant sited on a vast sand area of over 320 hectares. It houses a dedicated thermal power station and various ore refinery facilities, including heating and pressure vessels, thickeners and settling tanks. At this site, slurried ore is mixed with steam from the power station and sulfuric acid, boiled at high pressure and neutralized with limestone. The impurities are then precipitated. These chemical reactions are repeated to produce nickel, cobalt and ammonium sulphate (fertilizer) as byproduct.
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