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Work Begins Quickly for Horsehead's Arrival

HICKS GROVE — Bulldozers, back hoes, dump trucks and other heavy equipment were moving fast here Tuesday before 8 a.m., grading for the new location of Horsehead Corporation. Horsehead, the largest zinc producer in the United States is building a new plant just off Hicks Grove Road, investing $360 million in Rutherford County and providing 250 high-paying jobs when the plant is completed in 2013. 

During the construction process, about 1,000 people will be employed to build the state-of-the-art facility. 

Gov. Beverly Perdue, members of the Council of State and Lt. Governor Walter Dalton made the official announcement during a press conference Monday afternoon at Isothermal Community College. 

Gov. Beverly Perdue told the audience, “it’s no secret why we’re here,” even though the name of the company and the specifics were not specifically revealed until Monday afternoon.

For more than nine months the Economic Development Commission, Rutherford County Commissioners, Forest City town commissioners and staff have worked tirelessly with officials from Horsehead to bring the company to Rutherford County. 

Several characteristics that made the economic development project unique. The company needed rail service, a river, good accessibility, a large flat pad and all utilities. 

After searching through numerous states and counties, Horsehead focused on a 200 acre tract of property that adjoins the Broad River and has a railroad going through the middle of it. 

In the next days and months, extensive work will be on Hicks Grove Road as it winds through the residential area with a wooden bridge with a posted weight limit over the CSX railroad, Johnson said Monday during a public hearing on the matter. 

“Over the past months, Rutherford County Commissioners and Forest City Town Commissioners have worked extensively behind closed doors discussing the industrial location — finding ways to provide the water, sewer and other infrastructure for the company.

“We are very excited about the decision by Horsehead to locate in the county and state,” Johnson continued. Significant work will have to be done to accommodate this major project, and the cost of infrastructure is going to be several million dollars,” he said.

Infrastructure costs include: natural gas at over $3 million; entire rail yard and turnout estimated to cost over $3.6 million, plus grading and drainage; site preparation at over $2 million; raw water and storage estimated to cost over $2 million; sanitary sewer estimated to cost about $500,000; and a new road and bridge at a cost of $3 million, bringing the total cost to $15 million.

“Moving forward there will be significant involvement from Isothermal Community College with customized skills training,” Johnson said Monday.

“We are ready,” said Dr. Myra Johnson, ICC president on Monday afternoon. “We’re ready to train.” 

The new facility will utilize a lower-cost, environmentally friendly solvent extraction and electrowinning technology to selectively remove and refine valuable metals from electric arc furnace-based feed and other recycled materials into special high-grade zinc and other metal concentrates containing silver, copper and lead.

Solvent extraction is the only proven technology which selectively extracts zinc from a solution containing the multiple constituents typical of Horsehead’s recycled feedstock. Electrowinning is the most commonly used technology in the world for producing high-purity zinc.

The new plant will be capable of producing special high-grade (SHG) zinc and continuous-galvanizing grade (CGG) in addition to the Prime Western (PW) grade that the company currently produces.

Horsehead estimates the new plant’s nominal operating level to be in excess of 150,000 tons per year of zinc. The new zinc plant will eventually replace the existing 140,000 tons per year smelter in Monaca, Pa., and will be fed with waelz oxide from the Company’s EAF dust recycling plants and galvanizer skimmings.

Expected environmental advantages of the new Horsehead facility over the company’s current plant include low air and greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of Horsehead’s direct consumption of non-renewable energy sources including coal, coke and natural gas.

Read more: The Digital Courier - Work begins quickly for Horsehead's arrival