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Dearing lands kaolin plant

History was made in Dearing last Friday when officials announced the opening of a new kaolin production plant. The plant, called Advanced Primary Minerals Corporation, already is under construction on the Eubank Lumber Co. property on the Augusta Highway.

"How excited we are that something is happening on this property," Bill Eubank said to the McDuffie County, Forward McDuffie, Chamber of Commerce and kaolin officials and Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley.

Mr. Eubank said the lumber company will continue business as usual, even with the kaolin plant there.

"I'm excited because McDuffie County is going to get its first kaolin plant. I remember in the early 60s we tried, but it didn't happen. So, this is a historic event for Dearing and it's good for McDuffie County," Harold Eubank said.

Advanced Primary Minerals Corporation will mine kaolin on the three acres they are leasing from Eubank. It will be processed in the 60x90x30 facility and stored in another 60x90x30 overhang with silos being erected on the property, according to CEO Ken MacDonald.

"This is the day we've been waiting for. There's been quite a few rumors going around town, so it feels really good to be able to say 'Yes, it's happening,'" Mayor Kelley said. "It's good to see some good news for a change instead of doom and gloom."

The kaolin in McDuffie County is predominantly 50 percent clay to 50 percent sand, it cannot be found anywhere else in Georgia and is similar to that shipped to America from Europe. Mr. MacDonald said APM will be a boutique operation whose goal is not volume, but to produce niche products that big companies cannot do. The kaolin will be used to make ceramics for industrial sanitary ware, such as toilets and sinks. The sand also is very marketable, Mr. MacDonald said, and will be used for swimming pool filters, water purification and to make glass for flat screen TVs.

"We're proud to be in Dearing and proud to be starting a new business anywhere in these days and times," he said. "We are bucking trends with a new kaolin assembled processing operation. ... We're not in the habit of making promises we can't deliver. ... We will be a very efficient plant. It is a new, state-of-the-art facility with new technology that's a first in the kaolin industry in 45 years."

The company is so new that Mr. MacDonald and his associates, Paul Coughlan, vice-president of business development, and David Avant, vice president of operations, just approved their logo before making their announcement. And it is already listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company received their first order of 1,000 tons last week, and Mr. MacDonald said they will begin processing it in April.

A kaolin company tried to come to McDuffie County in 2006, but withdrew its application after local residents protested the possibility of trucking traffic, dust and noise.

Mr. MacDonald said the APM mine will not have any of those problems because the kaolin will be processed right on the property. The company will need to expand to other parts of the county in a few years, he said. When it does, a new process has been developed by Mr. Avant that will slurry the clay through a pipeline to the Dearing processing facility. The 10-year, two-phase development will result in approximately 96-100 jobs for the area.

"I don't have to even tell you what an opportunity this is," Mayor Kelley said in a previous meeting with the Dearing Town Council members. "With all the layoffs happening, the potential of having even five jobs is phenomenal for Dearing. The town cannot survive on residential alone."

Even though the mine is on the other side of the county, the Thomson mayor was at the meeting Friday, along with officials from Forward McDuffie and the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm the mayor of the other town on the other side of the county. But we are all one and we attempt to work as one," Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry said. "Today is great news that this company is making a capital investment in our times. You are mining what we've got rather than bringing it in from foreign countries. We are shipping our jobs oversees all the time, and it's time we brought those jobs back to American soil."

The announcement marks the third company with good news for McDuffie County in a month, as Thomson Plastics and Amcor, Inc. announced expansions in February.

Web posted on Thursday, March 05, 2009

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