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An Interview with Piero Starita, Director of Laviosa Minerals S.p.A., Italy, at METEF 2017
Mr. Piero Starita, Director of Laviosa Minerals S.p.A.- the Advanced Minerals Solutions company of Italy, talked to AlCircle ahead of Metef 2017 exhibition in Verona, Italy. He spoke about his company’s bentonite and other industrial mineral excavation, processing and distribution activities, its mining operations in India, upcoming plans and various challenges that it has been facing in the international market.
Mr. Starita has remained the President Amafond from 2008 till 2012, and exceptionally again from 2014 till 2015. Currently, he is a BoD member of Cemafon, Frankfurt and Ima – Euba, Bruxelles. He is also a BoD member in several companies in Italy, Spain, France, and India. Laviosa Minerals participated in METEF 2017, the international expo of customized technology for the aluminium and innovative metals industry.
Here is an excerpt from the interview taken at VeronaFiere, Italy:
AlCircle: Tell us something about Laviosa Minerals.
Piero Starita: Laviosa Minerals SpA is the holding company that controls the shareholdings of the Laviosa family. Our principle business area comprises production of foundry bentonites and many other mineralogical origin products. We also make some mineral powders having multiple industrial applications. We are proud to say that we are the most advanced company in Italy in the minerals development sector with a long history of mining activities in India.
AlCircle: How has been your journey in India so far?
Piero Starita: We started sourcing bentonite from India more than ten years ago. We were the first to source this mineral from Gujarat in Italy and other parts of Europe. We started working on this mineral- transforming and producing value added products, and making them available for a wide cross of industries. Currently, we have mines and facilities in Gujarat.
I want to clarify that Gujarat bentonite is a very specific product, much different from any other variety of bentonite found in places like Spain, Greece, Russia, and North Africa. Its specific gravity is different and application-wise it has some great advantages over other varieties.
Gujarat mining belt has many layers of bentonite spread across enormous area. The distribution is mostly sporadic with only few meters of the mineral sticking out in places- maximum 8 metres of betonite is found in each layer. So, excavation is done in layers moving from one place to another. The mining practice in Gujarat is based on a short-term vision. Land owners lease out mines to the small operators who excavate and abandon the land. We noticed this, and felt the necessity of being present there. So we partnered with an Indian company with minority stakes. Later, we created a second company with majority shareholding.
Last year, we bought back shares from our Indian operators and changed the name of the company to Laviosa India Pvt Ltd. The plant is located near Kachchh area in Gujarat. We own 4 mines there. It is necessary to own the land in India in order to stay in business, do research and make progress. We have built a plant not far from Mandvi. The facility is used for producing new bentonite based products where bentonite is used as an intermediate product. We are also working on a project aimed at creating something necessary for waste disposal in sustainable manner.
From creating a company in minority condition, to creating a second company in majority situation – buy 100% of the company, investing in a plant, and enlarging the facility to enhance capacity while still remaining focused on value creation, we have come a long way as a mineral development company. India will be more and more for us a key point for value creation in the domestic market as well as a strategic base for catering to the markets in the Middle East and Far East countries, including Australia.
AlCircle: What are the major opportunities for Laviosa Minerals in the international market right now?
Piero Starita: We face the biggest challenge from the ferrous foundries. Foundry today represents more or less 20% of our business, but we cannot afford to focus on foundries only. There are other markets too. The second key market is Environment. Waste disposal, ground production from leeching and leakage remain the areas with high prospects. The third market is Ceramic. Benotine is used in making ceramic products. It is also used in wine processing and clarification. Bentonite finds application in many industries. In each field, there are many obstacles. To find the right variety of bentonite remains a major challenge for Laviosa right now.
AlCircle: What would be your advice for the emerging Indian market?
Piero Starita: Talking from India’s country point of the view, my suggestion would be for the State - take care of the environment. Regulate the mining activities. Try to avoid mining activities without control. Avoid the risk that comes along with the small operators starting to mine and abandoning the area in a bad shape. It damages environment in the long term. Secondly, go as much as possible to the final application. Try to add value in the country. Don’t sell the crude mineral outside.
AlCircle: What is the next big challenge for Lavoisa in the international market?
Piero Starita: What we learn from the intelligent essence of operations of big mining companies is that we should have a proper knowledge of and control over ‘mine to market.’ Then we need to select an appropriate source for each market.
AlCircle: Do you have any plan to expand in Australia?
Piero Starita: It is not easy. From our experience in bentonite and partly in bauxite, we must say that it would be very difficult to set a foothold in the Australian mining sector, at least in the short term.
Disclaimer: “The information presented herein is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional advice. The views and opinions shared in the interview section of www.alcircle.com are unique to the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of www.alcircle.com."
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