Liciatron Granite, a black owned and managed company involved in quarrying and beneficiation of dimension stone, has targeted the export market for its granite.

The company set up five years ago by businessman and founder of the Don Suite Hotels Group Thabiso Tlelai has mining rights for quarrying and beneficiation of the dimension stone in the Great Kei Municipality, near East London.

Granite is the world’s most heavily quarried dimension stone.

The global granite market was valued at US$14 billion in 2016.

The global market achieved an annual growth rate of 3.3% annually from US$13 billion in 2013.

The growth is forecast to continue to 2021, with the global market growing to US$17.68 billion.

Tlelai, is one of few black entrepreneurs to hold a controlling share in a South African mine engaged in the quarrying of dimension stone.

A Dimension stone is a natural rock material quarried for the purpose of obtaining blocks or slabs that meet specifications as to size (width, length, and thickness) and shape.

It is the number one non-fuel mineral resource in the world in terms of value and volume.

Explaining how the business began, Tlelai says he invested his own capital towards site establishment, clearing of the mining area, mining equipment and processing activities.

The National Endowment Fund (NEF) provided a R15 million loan to acquire capital equipment for the mining and processing of the granite.

“Through this initial capital investment, Liciatron will be able to extract the black granite from the mine for the next 23 years,” said Tlelai.

He added that granite was in high demand due for its luxurious look, strength, durability against the elements and practicality for engraving.

This results in the material having a multitude of commercial applications.

“In exterior projects, Granite is used for building monuments, building bridges, as building stone (i.e. granite can be used as substitute for cement), as paving stone, for street curbing, as crushed stone used in the construction of roads and highways and to fashion tombstones and memorials.

“In interior projects, granite is used to make kitchen counter-tops, backsplashes, bathroom sinks, basins, kitchen tiles and bathroom tiles.

Tlelai said classic materials, in the form of black and grey granite, are the most extensively used types of granite.

“Due to the high demand for the material, Liciatron supplies its black granite to both the international and local markets.”

He said the first stage of the production process involves cutting granite from the quarry face into large blocks of various dimensions. These granite blocks are currently being exported to Europe.

“Blocks not exported are sent for further processing for sale to the local market. This involves cutting the large blocks into unpolished slabs of various thicknesses.

“Thereafter, the slabs are polished and further cut into the specific dimensions required by the Memorial market for making Tombstone components. The company also cuts slabs for making Kitchen Counter-tops,” said Tlelai.

Plans are afoot to expand the business to produce kitchen and bathroom tiles. Waste material will be crushed for the supply of construction aggregate for use in the construction of roads and buildings.

“Other waste material will be applied towards to production and supply of cobblestone. This will transform Liciatron’s business model to a zero percent waste business in the medium to long term,” said Tlelai.

Commenting on the business, NEF Head of Marketing and Communication Moemise Motsepe said that this is an indication that black entrepreneurs are eager to play an active role in the economy, and the NEF can make a huge difference in converting them to active participants in the economy.

“A properly resourced NEF, therefore, will have the necessary means and the capacity to respond to the huge demand for business funding among black people,” he said.