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Chemical Initiatives was established in 1907 when Arthur Chamberlain, chairman of Kynoch in England, visited the Transvaal to obtain contracts to supply explosives to South Africa. Finding that the two existing explosives factories were selling explosives at prices lower than he could hope to, he set his sights further south, to a 1400-acre site at Umbogintwini, Natal.

By November 1908, the first sulphuric acid plant was commissioned and by January 1909, the first charge of explosives was produced.

At the end of World War 1, a worldwide surplus of military explosives unfit for commercial purposes necessitated the formation of Explosives Trade Limited. Kynoch’s Umbogintwini factory and Modderfontein plant were part of this new company, joined under the same management. Under the new agreement, Umbogintwini would concentrate on fertilizer production, while Modderfontein would be the explosives factory, later becoming the world’s largest.

The manufacture of super-phosphates started at Umbogintwini in 1919 with a second plant being built in 1926. By 1931, the old plants were abandoned and a modern plant was erected. With the formation of African Explosives and Industries (AECI) in 1924, Umbogintwini developed into a world-scale industrial chemical complex, manufacturing a wide range of chemical products.

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