Special to the Enterprise
Southern Ionics Inc., a West Point, Miss.-based chemical producer, announced today its intent to construct and operate a mineral sand plant in Offerman.
The facility will process mineral sands from two permitted mines in Charlton and Brantley counties. The plant is proposed to begin operating in early 2014, and will provide new employment for up to 35 skilled workers.
“We’re looking forward to continued investment in South Georgia,” said Ron Rose, director of mining for Southern Ionics. “We’ve already begun constructing the two mines, and we’ll be producing by the end of this year. After four months of searching for a site, we’re excited to have found the right spot for our mineral sand plant in Pierce County,” said Rose.
Southern Ionics worked closely with state and local economic and industrial development authorities, utilities, railroads, and landowners to evaluate potential sites in five south Georgia counties. Commercial rail service and a reliable supply of natural gas were critical issues in the search. The preferred location, along US 84 just northeast of Offerman, is on the CSX mainline between Jesup and Waycross and is near an existing natural gas line. Now, the company is working with the landowner, Pierce County, CSX, and others to lay out a conceptual footprint and procure sufficient property for the plant and a rail spur. At the mines, small amounts of titanium and zirconium mineral sands will be extracted from the sandy soils and then transported by truck to the Offerman Mineral Sand Plant, also referred to as a “dry mill”. There, the various minerals will be subjected to water-gravity separation, high tension electrical current, and magnetic fields which will segregate the individual sand grains based on their different densities and electromagnetic properties. The titanium and zirconium mineral sands will then be sold to manufacturers throughout the United States. Titanium compounds are used as pigments, catalysts, and metal alloys. Zirconium compounds have similar uses and are also important for high-temperature precision metal casting, ceramics, and kidney dialysis.
Southern Ionics is opening the mines and mineral sand plant because zirconium oxychloride, an important industrial chemical produced from zircon sand, is only available from foreign sources. Southern Ionics needed a more reliable supplier in order to satisfy a contract for a new kidney dialysis technology.
“Producing our own zircon sand from which we can produce zirconium chemicals gives us a secure supply while bringing good industrial jobs back to the South,” said Rose.
The Offerman Mineral Sand Plant will be a multi-million dollar investment and will employ up to 35 people. For construction, Southern Ionics is planning to hire local contractors as well as specialty contractors with experience building similar plants. The plant is being designed by an Australian firm to incorporate innovative processes to produce premium-grade minerals and avoid discharging wastewater. Once the property is obtained, Southern Ionics will continue with the plant design, apply for state and local permits, and begin construction. The anticipated opening date is in early 2014. Employment opportunities will be advertised locally as the opening date approaches.
Southern Ionics Inc., a Mississippi-based company, is an innovator and leading manufacturer of specialty and intermediate inorganic chemicals. The company employs more than 260 people at manufacturing, shipping, and research and development sites in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.