Moengo Minerals turns undervalued minerals into durable building stones

By Nancy de Randamie

PARAMARIBO-  If new building materials company Moengo Minerals (MM) has its way, house builders in Suriname will soon trade cement for the stronger PowerPemba, a plaster that’s based on kaolinite, locally known as pemba doti (dirt). MM is literally turning dirt into business; years of bauxite mining by multi-national Suralco in the Moengo area exposed the pemba doti, but left the soil completely infertile. MM’s activities give these Moengo grounds new purpose and create new prospects for jobs. According to MM Director Miguel Eersel his company thinks “innovative and out-of-the-box.”

Kaolinite is a porous volcanic clay mineral that is found in the soil of former bauxite town Moengo in Marowijne, south east Suriname. In dehydroxylated form it’s called Metakaolin, which is traditionally used in porcelain manufacturing; the particle size of Metakaolin is smaller than cement particles. So when kaolin is used to make plaster, it is stronger and thus more durable, as it is less humid. MM’s engineers and students from the University of Suriname tested the plaster for three years and found that the Moengo kaolinite is one of the world’s finest, containing only 10 percent of sand. “Our French partner Demeter Operations uses kaolinite from the West of France to make metakaolin. This kaolinite contains 40 % sand, giving our metakaolin a competitive advantage,” says Eersel. Suriname’s main ready-mix producer and construction company Kuldipsingh were also involved in the process.

Adopting the catchy slogan “Power from Our Own Soil” MM now intends to use take over the Surinamese, French Guianese and French Antillian market with Power Pemba ready-mix, stones to put up walls or build roads with  and products such as tile glue and  mixture to plaster walls. The MM plant should become operational before year-end and by next year the Power Pemba products should enter the local market. “And hopefully, within three to five years we can hit the other markets: French Guiana and the French Antilles,” says Eersel.

He has the support of Natural Resources Minister Jim Hok, who at the launch on Wednesday March 23rd said he particularly liked the fact that the Power Pemba products will be exported. “As a country we’re not making and exporting enough of our own products. We should break through this cycle and export more,” Hok said. “” Suriname soil has much more to offer than gold, bauxite and oil. I am looking forward towards the blossoming of this new industry.” He praised the innovation of Moengo Minerals and seemed especially proudly that both products and people behind the endeavor are “100 % Surinamese.”

Marcel Meyer, director of advisory engineering bureau Sunecon and coordinator of the building and construction sector, also hailed the products which MM is going to produce. “In the near future the foundation of roads in Suriname will be more durable because they will be less prone to humidity when the Moengo Mineral’s road stabilizer products will be used. It will also lower the costs of road building as well as the cost of building and construction at a whole,” Meyer said.