February 17, 2016 Edition

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Silica production to start in May

Tommy Bronson (from right) and Dan Cook, two of the three American Silica owners, look over plans for the plant with Josh Geurin of Geurin Contractors, Inc., out of Strawberry, which has been hired to do the site work on the project.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

American Silica, LLC, is making major strides toward opening up a new production plant in Lawrence County. The $40-million rock crushing facility, which is located north of Black Rock could send its first trainload of product as early as May.

The Florida-based company found the 200-acre site in 2011 and broke ground early 2015. Co-owner Dan Cook said the site featured many of the assets they were looking for, however the biggest selling point was access to a main railroad, which will be utilized in its exports.

The company, led by Cook, Tommy Bronson and Kennie Day, processes aggregate materials for the oil and gas industry.

While Cook became interested in investing in a mining business in the late 2010s, the three American Silica owners are hardly new to this type of work. Bronson and Day have worked together since the late sixties and Bronson has been a part of several local businesses, including a rock-crushing facility. Cook began working under Bronson in the cement business in the 1980s and since then the three have become partners.

The main source of materials for the plant will come from its Cave City quarry, which will generate approximately 80 loads of primary crushed rocks to be transported in 20 trucks for a single shift.

Cook said the goal would be to run the new plant, located on County Road 210 on a double-shift schedule and allow room for a third shift if possible.

Once a load is brought to the crushing facility, it is dumped on a series of conveyer belts, which take it to its secondary crush. Once material is processed to within one percent of specification, the resulting sand is dried on site and then exported by rail.

About 13,000 feet of rail is being installed around the plant by American Silica, which has also paid for the installation of two mainline switches for the railroad. Additional utility adjustments include installing new electric and gas lines. The facility is on the site of an old quarry and the resulting ponds from the mining operation will be used in a closed loop system to recycle water.

Site and dirt work on the project is being done locally by Geurin Contractors, Inc., out of Strawberry. Several companies throughout the region are also to be utilized in the plant construction.

Once complete, the plant will create 80-100 jobs on a double shift schedule. These jobs will be divided between office workers, plant workers and truckers, which will be subcontracted.

Cook said they will be looking locally for employees, stating that he has had great experiences with the people he has worked with so far.

"The people are great, everyone I've worked with has been wonderful," Cook said. He added that they are selective and competitive in their hiring and want to create an environment that is positive to work in. "We want to attract good employees and we want to keep them."

Cook said the facility was set up to run for many years, adding that the rock available at the company's local quarries will keep the business running for years after he is gone.

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