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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- US Magnesium has announced it is expanding its Rowley facilities on the west side of Great Salt Lake because it has to compete in the tough global magnesium market.
"Foreign competition and increasing energy costs demand that we expand the facility and reduce unit costs to survive," Mike Legge, US Magnesium's president and chief executive, said Monday.
If antidumping trade petitions pending before the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission prevent foreign competitors from shipping low-cost imports to the United States, US Magnesium could expand production from the 51,000 metric tons currently contemplated to 59,000 metric tons, and, eventually, to 73,000 tons, Legge said.
"Engineering and cost analysis for future expansion ... has been completed and financing will be pursued," Legge said.
The company expects to add about a dozen new electrolytic cells, brick-lined furnaces capable of capturing far more chlorine emissions than old technology that US Magnesium has retired since 1998 as part of a $50 million modernization program.
The first metal units from the expansion are expected to be available in June 2005.
Magnesium extraction from the Great Salt Lake brine once brought an outcry from environmentalists because of the large releases of chlorine.
Tom Tripp, US Magnesium's technical services manager, said new scrubbers capture 99 percent of the released chlorine, compared to the 85 percent range in the years when Magnesium Corp. of America -- MagCorp -- often finished first on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Toxic Release Inventory" report.
In the 2004 report, US Magnesium was 41st in the nation's list of big polluters.
"They've worked hard and are much more efficient in their use of electricity and their release of chlorine and hydrochloric acid," said Wasatch Clean Air Coalition representative Kathy Van Dame. "Expanding their electrolytic line won't have the same kind of environmental impacts as previous expansions."
Tripp said the new units may release some "incidental fugitive emissions, but any increases would be small fractions (of a percent) and certainly within our permitted emissions limits."
"We've been in hard financial times. The market is turning around a little and we're trying to take advantage of it," Tripp said. "We're incrementally adding more equipment to make more magnesium."
Tooele County Commissioner Gene White applauded the expansion, citing US Magnesium's improved environmental performance and the importance of the company's 420 high-paying jobs to the county's economy.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)