The Rothschild family combined some of their metals and mining interests into a company called Peñarroya. For almost a century it specialised in extracting and processing non-ferrous metals.
After almost a century, as a stand-alone company, Peñarroya branched out, buying a French clay roof tile maker and an American steel and metals processor. It created a holding company called Imetal to manage the new business.
The company made its first significant investment in refractory minerals and ceramics when it acquired France’s Damrec and started to switch its focus from non-ferrous metallurgy activities to industrial minerals. The Group restructured its business into three key sectors: Building Materials, Industrial Minerals and Metals Processing.
Imetal intensified its focus on industrial minerals, buying companies in markets including Brazil, France, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, the UK and the US, and in materials such as kaolin, calcium carbonates, refractory minerals, monolithic refractories, ball clays, ceramics with KPCL, graphite and white pigments.
By the end of the decade, as a result of these acquisitions, and a few divestments, the company was entirely focused on industrial minerals processing. To reflect this change, Imetal changed its name to Imerys. The company continued to expand its product lines, its geographic reach and the markets in which it is present.
At the start of the millennium, Imerys added new minerals – clays, feldspar and halloysite – to its portfolio and consolidated its position in others, such as corundum, which is fused alumina and bauxite, while also expanding its market reach across Asia, the Americas and Europe.
The Group made some significant acquisitions, including Lafarge Réfractaires Monolithiques, which enabled Imerys to become the European leader in monolithic refractories, and World Minerals in the US, a global leader in filtration and performance minerals such as diatomite and perlite. It also bought Denain Anzin Minerals of France, providing Imerys with feldspar, mica, quartz and kaolin deposits across Europe.
The acquisitions continued towards the end of the decade with the addition of calcined clays, extensive reserves of high-quality white marble in Malaysia, Vietnam and China, feldspar mines in the US, India and Turkey. High quality mica was added to the portfolio through acquisitions in the US and Canada.
At the same time, as the decade progressed and the acquisitions continued, Imerys started to clarify its positioning as a responsible business, creating its Sustainable Development Challenge (2004), introducing a Safety Charter and the Imerys Safety System (2005) to support and drive continuous safety improvement, along with the Serious 6 (2007), a set of safety protocols aimed at preventing serious injuries and fatalities. It also introduced a Code of Business Conduct outlining the company’s commitment to ethical behaviour and an Environment Health & Safety Charter (2006).
Imerys started the decade by buying the Luzenac Group and becoming the world leader in talc while a joint venture, The Quartz Corp, allows Imerys to meet increasing demands for high purity quartz in the semiconductor and photovoltaic markets.
Its continued expansion in existing production and into new product lines and new markets in high growth area included doubling the capacity of its Belgian Carbon Black plant (2013) and building its first industrial facility in the Middle East, a fused alumina production plant in Bahrain (2013).
Acquisitions included S&B (2015), a global player in bentonite, continuous casting fluxes for steel, in wollastonite and perlite-based solutions; and Kerneos (2017), the world leader in calcium aluminate-based high-performance binders. The Group also completed several bolt-on acquisitions which enabled it to broaden its speciality offering and continue developing its presence in countries such as Brazil, India and China.
At the same time, Imerys continued to refine its responsible business activities. These included the introduction of the award-winning ImerPlast™ (2015), which makes it much simpler to recycle mixed polymers. It also introduced an operational excellence programme called I-Cube, to strengthen, systemize, and establish a culture of continuous industrial improvement at all sites.
A safety awareness program, Take 5, was introduced (2014) as a technique to ensure that all employees stop and think before engaging in any task that comes up in the course of their job, while the Serious 6 safety protocols evolved into the Serious 7 (2016) to cover the activities considered to represent the highest risk of injuries and fatalities in the industry.
In 2017, the company conducted its first employee engagement survey.
Imerys is continuing to reshape its business portfolio to position itself as a specialty minerals company and to improve its growth profile.
In 2018 the Group put in place a new simpler structure to be more customer and market focused, organized around two segments and grouping five newly created business areas.
Additionally, an updated version of the Code of Business Conduct, available in 23 languages and with a more robust reporting system, including a new whistleblowing hotline has been introduced.