Timeline: history of Lafarge

The beginning

The story of the world leader in building materials began in the Ardèche region, at a place called “Lafarge”, which means “the forge”, near the village of Teil.
Joseph-Auguste Pavin de Lafarge began regular extraction operations in the limestone quarries. He had 2 major advantages, one geological, the other geographical: the limestone of the region is of excellent quality and can be used to replace mortar, and the Rhône river makes it relatively easy to transport goods.
His two sons, Edouard and Léon, developed the family company, which became known as “Lafarge Frères” (Lafarge Brothers) in 1848.

First major project: the Suez canal

Lafarge won the “contract of the century” in Egypt!
200,000 tons of hydraulic lime, delivered in wooden barrels, were needed to build the piers of the Suez canal. Although its production capacity was limited to just 20 kilns, which produced 50,000 tons per year, Lafarge rose to the challenge.
The canal will be inaugurated on November 17th, 1869, and connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

First operations in Algeria and development in North Africa

The Suez canal contract, the company’s first success in the Mediterranean basin, was the prelude to expansion and the opening of commercial offices in Marseilles, Sète, Tunis and Algiers.
Within a few years, the Group had become the leading producer of Portland cement in Algeria. The Mediterranean adventure had begun!

Creation of the world’s first research laboratory specialized in cement

On the back of its commercial success, Lafarge opened a research laboratory near Teil, France. This laboratory was the first in the world to specialize in cement.
The gifted scientists working there placed the laboratory at the forefront of technological progress: Jules Bied invented aluminous cement (“ciment fondu”) in 1908, Henry Le Chatelier worked on hydration by crystallisation, Etienne Rengade solved the problem of hydrolysis in 1933. To this day, Lafarge works with the most talented research teams. Physical, chemical and mechanical research allows Lafarge to retain its position as the leader in building materials and respond ever more closely to customer requirements.

Social policy rewarded at the Universal Exhibition

From the outset, Lafarge has paid close attention to the living and working conditions of its employees and has invested in facilities ranging from dormitories, canteens and hospitals to schools, gardens and rent-controlled housing.
In 1889, the Group’s social policy was rewarded with a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition. Lafarge received this award again in 1900.
Today, the Group’s commitment to local communities continues through a number of programs, including masonry apprenticeships, mobile dispensaries, strategies to fight malaria and AIDS, and housing programs for the underprivileged.

1899 - 1906
Elaboration of the “revolving roller extinction technique”

Lafarge’s teams developed the “revolving roller extinction technique”, an innovative procedure used to create white lime, maritime lime and extra-white cement.
The first buildings made with these Lafarge products were the New York Stock Exchange (cut stone with white cement joints) and prestigious buildings in the Mediterranean region including the pier in Venice, the port of Algiers and the Corinth canal.

Ciment Fondu®, resistant to external forces and high temperatures

In 1908, Lafarge research director Jules Bied filed a patent for Ciment Fondu®, obtained by mixing limestone and bauxite.
This cement quickly acquired an excellent reputation thanks to its many properties, notably rapid hardening and resistance to corrosion and high temperatures.
It was put to a range of uses and can be found in the Paris metro, on oil rigs, in equipment for the world’s leading steel manufacturers and, more recently, in the launch pad for the Ariane rocket in Kourou, French Guiana.
Ciment Fondu® is the base ingredient for a number of innovative products, including special mortars and refractory concretes.

First patent for white cement

Another Lafarge discovery!
During the fabrication process for white cement, clay is replaced by kaolin, which contains low quantities of iron oxide. White cement has the same properties as a comparable grey cement but offers additional esthetic qualities.
White cement is still used today. For example, the architect Santiago Calatrava used it in France in 1994 to build the Lyon-Saint Exupéry station for high speed trains.
In 1932, 10 years after white cement was created, Lafarge launched Superblanc. Le Corbusier selected this cement in 1936 when he designed the facades of the Education and Health Ministries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

First quarry rehabilitation in Draveil, France

Lafarge has long been aware of the environmental impact of its extraction activities. In 1930, the Group carried out its first quarry rehabilitation project.
Today, the Group plans the rehabilitation of each site before it begins extraction. An environmental impact study, carried out in advance of operations, identifies all measures that will be required to protect the environment, biodiversity and local communities.
Almost 90% of aggregate extraction sites have a rehabilitation plan which will ensure they enjoy a useful second life!

Diversification into gypsum, the production of gypsum powder

In 1931, the Group acquired “Gypses et Plâtres de France”, a company based in the south France that owned a number of gypsum quarries.
This acquisition marked Lafarge’s entry into a promising market. Later, it would become the 3rd largest producer of gypsum in the world.
In the 1930s, one of the Group’s products was called “White Elephant”, in reference to a fashion for wearing pendants with an elephant design.

The leading cement producer in France and North Africa

Throughout the first part of the 20th century, the Lafarge lime and cement company continued to develop by acquiring companies across France. After the Second World War, Lafarge consolidated its position as the leading cement producer in France and North Africa.
The decision to relocate the company’s headquarters from Viviers, in the Ardèche, to Paris in 1947 was a symbol of this transformation.
International development increased while greater demand for building materials saw production double in just 10 years.

The first cement plant in North America and the creation of Lafarge Cement of North America (LCNA)

Lafarge built its first cement plant in North America at Richmond in western Canada. It was a bold move to locate a plant 10,000 km and 24 hours by plane from France!
In 1960, Lafarge acquired 2 concrete firms, Deeks-McBride and Anglo-Canadian, and established a ready-mix concrete activity with its own mixing lorries. 1965 saw the construction of a cement plant at Saint-Constant in Quebec.
The Group enjoyed unprecedented growth. By the end of the 1960s, it had become the 3rd largest cement producer in Canada, with an annual production capacity of 900,000 tons.

First operations in Brazil

In 1959, Lafarge acquired a stake in Cominci, a Brazilian company, and built its first cement plant in Brazil at Matozhinos.
This plant was the first to produce the famous “Campeâo” brand of cement. The distinctive logo and packaging of the product paid tribute to the Brazilian football team, which had just won the World Cup.

Creation of Canada Cement Ltd. (CCL), the country’s leading cement producer

1970 saw the merger between Lafarge Cement of North America (LCNA), founded in 1956, and Canada’s largest cement producer, Canada Cement Company, which had been founded in 1909.
The new company was called Canada Cement Lafarge Ltd. (CCL). CCL became the largest cement producer in Canada, with 11 plants.

Agreement with the French Ministry for the Environment on dust emissions

Since 1971, Lafarge has been taking active steps to reduce dust emissions from its cement plants.
The Group does more than simply comply with regulations and the equipment and processes used in plants, such as chimney evacuation filters, are constantly being improved through the use of new technologies.
The Sustainability Ambitions 2012 roadmap, launched in 2007, sets the challenging goal of reducing worldwide dust emissions by 30% before 2012.

Development of superplasticizers and modernization of the Group

The same year:

First use of industrial waste as an alternative fuel

In the mid-70s, as petrol prices soared, Lafarge realized that industrial and agricultural waste products, such as coffee pods, rice husks, tires, solvents and bone meal, could be used to add value in its processes.
This industrial ecology approach safely reduces the use of fossil fuels, diversifies energy sources and provides a service to communities by recycling waste. It also reduces CO2 emissions, which is particularly important given that the cement industry is responsible for 5% of global emissions.
This strategy allows the Group to reconcile production requirements with environmental preservation.
Press kit about Industrial ecology

Publication of the Group’s Principles of Action

Lafarge’s humanist traditions, passed down the generations since the company was founded, inspired the Group’s Principles of Action. As Olivier Lecerf, Chairman from 1974 to 1989, said: “We try to manage by serving rather than by dominating. The true legitimacy of a leader lies in his capacity to serve.” The Principles of Action are a set of humanist values and commitments shared by all employees. They incorporate:

Principles of Action (PDF, 148.59 Ko)

Lafarge achieves leadership on the North American cement market - Perfection of high performance concretes

he same year:

First operations in Cameroon and sub-Saharan Africa

Lafarge took its first steps in sub-Saharan Africa in 1985, when it opened a site in Cameroon. Over time, the Group expanded into Kenya (1989), South Africa (1998), Uganda and Benin (1999), and Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Zambia (2001).
Lafarge now has activities in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Group’s growth is closely linked to the urbanization of these developing countries and their need for infrastructure and housing. Lafarge focuses on the expansion of manufacturing capacity in all developing countries where it operates.

Acquisition of Cementia: new sites in Europe and East Africa

Lafarge’s acquisition of Cementia, a Swiss group, brought a number of prestigious brands into the Group’s portfolio:

First operations in East Germany – The world’s first research laboratory specialized in building materials

The same year:

First operations and expansion in China

The Group acquired its first cement plant in Huabei, China, in 1994. This was the first of many investments in the country.

The Group is pursuing its expansion strategy in this dynamic market, which is characterized by increasing demand for building materials.

Sustainable development at the heart of the Group’s activities

The same year:

Press kit about Industrial ecology

Acquisition of Redland: a new business portfolio and further consolidation

The acquisition of Redland, a British group, strengthened Lafarge’s positions in aggregates and concrete, turned the Group into the leader in building materials in North America, and allowed Lafarge to enter the roofing sector.

First operations in India and South Korea

Continuing its growth strategy in Asia, Lafarge acquired 2 plasterboard factories in South Korea, close to the town of Busan. The South Korean plasterboard market is the 2nd largest in the region and offers excellent potential for further growth.
Lafarge also entered the Indian cement market by purchasing the cement division of TISCO (Tata Iron & Steel Company Ltd), India’s leading steel manufacturer. This acquisition gave the Group a strong presence on the market in western Bengal and an efficient industrial operation in the form of a cement plant and a grinding plant.

A turning point: acquisitions, new product launches and partnerships

The same year:

Lafarge, the world’s leading cement producer, targets sustainable growth

The same year:

Framework agreement with the CNRS and the launch of PLAtecTM

The same year:

Press release: CNRS agreement (PDF – 19.26 Kb)

Signature of the UN Global Compact, creation of the Stakeholder Panel and further efforts in the fight against AIDS

The same year :

Expansion in emerging markets, the launch of SignaTM, humanitarian aid, sponsorship

The same year:

Press kit: 1 year after tsunami (PDF – 132.39 Kb)

Recognition for the Group’s sustainable development activities – Increased production capacities

The same year:

Bruno Lafont and the Excellence 2008 Plan - Commercial launch of Sensium® - Launch of the Hypergreen concept

The Group accelerated its growth: Bruno Lafont was appointed CEO of the Group and launched the Excellence 2008 strategic plan. The program will improve industrial performance, consolidate positions on emerging markets and drive further action on sustainable development. Lafarge purchased Lafarge North America minority shares and became the leader in North America across all of its Businesses.
2006 was also a good year for architecture and innovative materials:

Divestment of the Roofing Business, focus on sustainable growth, launch of 2 concretes with high added value

The same year:

Acquisition of Orascom Cement, the leading cement group in the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin

This operation is a decisive acceleration of the Group’s strategy in fast-growing, highly profitable emerging markets.
Orascom Cement is located in high-potential markets, with number-one positions in the key markets of Egypt, Algeria, United Arabs Emirates and Iraq. Its geographical presence is highly complementary with Lafarge’s emerging markets portfolio.
Orascom Cement is also a wealth of talented human resources, with unique experience in this kind of markets.

Growth in emerging markets - Concrete innovation

Lafarge continues to grow in emerging countries in Ecuador, Nigeria and Iraq.
Innovation is in the spotlight with the launch of Thermedia® 0.6 B, a new generation of insulating concretes.

Innovation strategy - Shanghai World Expo - Strengthening business in Brazil and Central Europe

Lafarge accelerates its innovation strategy and introduces Aether – a project aiming at reducing cement CO2 footprint – during its Technology Center’s 20-year anniversary celebration.
The Group is partner of the France Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.
Lafarge strengthens its presence in Brazil following the sale of its Cimpor stake to Votorantim and becomes one of the 3 main cement operators in the country.
Lafarge and STRABAG, Central and Eastern Europe’s largest construction company, create a holding company located in Austria.

Significant divestments and new organization

Lafarge and Anglo American announce the creation of a leading UK construction materials company.
The Group sells its Cement and Concrete assets in the southeast United States to the Colombia-based conglomerate Cementos Argos. Lafarge also announces the sale of its Gypsum operations in Europe, in South America, in Australia, and in Asia.
Lafarge presents a new organization project more agile and responsive, focused on its markets and its clients.
Within its partnership with WWF, the Group announces new CO2 targets and plans to reduce by 33% its CO2 emissions per ton of cement produced by the end of 2020.
Lafarge continues its innovation strategy and launches Hydromedia™, a a new generation pervious concrete.

Sustainability Ambitions 2020 – Concrete at the Louvre - Sales of assets

Lafarge launches its SUSTAINABILITY AMBITIONS 2020 program: 34 new sustainability ambitions organized around the three main pillars of sustainable development - social, economic and environmental - and coupled with demanding quantitative targets.The Group also launches a microfinance program for affordable housing targeted at people in emerging markets.
The Louvre Museum in Paris inaugurates its new Department of Islamic Art designed by architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, in close collaboration with Lafarge.
The Group announces the sale of a portfolio of Tarmac and Lafarge construction materials operations in the UK to Mittal Investments.
The Group sells its cement, concrete and aggregates assets in Missouri and Oklahoma (USA) to Eagle Materials Inc.

Building Better Cities – Our concrete at the MuCEM – Sales of assets

Lafarge unveils its new ambition "Building Better Cities", aiming to develop value-added products, and construction systems, as well as solutions and services to meet some of the great challenges of urbanization. This ambition addresses five main challenges:

The new Museum of European & Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) opens its doors in Marseille. Designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, it makes full use of our ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) Ductal®, with a concrete latticework façade and a breathtaking peripheral supporting structure.
The Group announces the creation of the Lafarge Tarmac joint-venture in the UK with Anglo American.
The Group announces the sale of it cement activities in Ukraine and Honduras, as well as the sale of its gypsum businesses in Europe, Latin America and North America, and the sale of its aggregates assets in Georgie (USA).

Announcement of the LafargeHolcim merger project – Sales of assets

Announcement of the merger of equals project to create LafargeHolcim, the most advanced group in the building materials industry.
The Group announces the sale of it cement activities in Ecuador and Pakistan, the sale of its aggregates businesses in Maryland (USA), as well as the sale of its minority stake in Mexico and of a cement plant in Russia.

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