Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a mineral sand plant or "dry mill" and why is it needed?
A: Southern Ionics is currently constructing two sand mines in Charlton and Brantley counties in southeastern Georgia. We expect to begin operating in late 2013. The mines will separate small amounts of desirable titanium and zirconium mineral sands from quartz sand to produce a mineral sand concentrate. Several different desirable minerals are mixed together in the mineral concentrate, so a dry mill, or Mineral Sand Plant, is needed to separate the mineral sand concentrate into the individual mineral components. The proposed mineral sand plant will produce bulk mineral products consisting of several different grades of titanium and zirconium mineral sands which then can be sold to manufacturers throughout the United States.
Q: What are these minerals used for? Are they something I encounter daily?
A: Once the titanium and zirconium mineral sands are sold, they are further processed for a wide range of industrial and consumer uses. If you use toothpaste or sunscreen, you use titanium every day. Your anti-perspirant probably has zirconium in it. One of the main uses of titanium compounds is as a bright white opaque pigment. If you have used glossy white house paint, you have used titanium dioxide, which replaced lead in paint. Some people are also familiar with titanium and zirconium metal's use for artificial joints, such as hip replacements. Zircon sand is used to form the molds for precision high-temperature metal casting, such as for aircraft engine parts. If you have bright white tile in your kitchen or bathroom, it probably has a zirconium glaze. A new technology for kidney dialysis depends on zirconium compounds.
Q: Are these mineral sands dangerous?
A: No. Titanium and Zirconium mineral sands are naturally occurring. They are a product of weathering and erosion of the Appalachian Mountains and were transported by rivers to the coast many years ago. They are non-toxic and environmentally stable. Titanium and zirconium are used in many products approved for human use and consumption.
Q: Who is Southern Ionics?
A: Southern Ionics Inc. is an innovator and leading manufacturer of specialty and intermediate inorganic chemicals. We are based in West Point, Mississippi and employ more than 260 people at manufacturing, shipping, and research & development sites in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. While the company is new to mining, all the members of our mining group are veterans of the mineral sand industry and have spent decades working on similar projects.
Q: Why is Southern Ionics entering the mining and mineral processing business?
A: Southern Ionics produces various zirconium chemical products, all of which are made from a basic chemical called zirconium oxychloride. Currently, the only sources of zirconium oxychloride are foreign suppliers. Southern Ionics needs a reliable domestic source in order to meet its production contracts. In looking for an American supplier, Southern Ionics realized that zircon sand has been mined from Georgia and Florida for more than 50 years. We assembled a team of mining, mineral processing and environmental experts that will allow us to mine and process the mineral sands in a responsible manner, obtain zircon for our own needs, and sell titanium minerals to other manufacturers.
Q: How will the Mineral Sand Plant work?
A: The mineral sand concentrate will be trucked from the mines to the Offerman Mineral Sand Plant. There, it will be washed with water to remove organic staining. The sand will be dried, heated slightly, and then sent through various circuits where the sand grains will be subjected to high tension electrical current and magnetic fields to segregate the individual grains of sand based on their different specific gravity, electrical conductance and magnetic properties. The individual mineral sands will be sold in bulk to other manufacturers throughout the United States.
Q: When will the Mineral Sand Plant begin operating?
A: The two mines are already under construction and will be producing by the end of 2013. To support the mines, the mineral sand plant is expected to begin operating in early 2014.
Q: How did you select a site for the Mineral Sand Plant? Why isn't the plant located at the mines?
A: We spent 4 months considering sites in 5 counties in the vicinity of the mines in Brantley and Charlton Counties. We worked closely with state and local economic and industrial development authorities, utilities, railroads, and landowners to evaluate sites. Critical deciding factors were whether the site had commercial rail service and a reliable supply of natural gas, which are not available at the mine sites. We also looked for a site with good highway access and electricity. We needed good transportation access to bring raw materials to the plant for processing and to allow us to ship minerals to industrial customers across the United States. Natural gas and electricity are used to operate plant.
Q: Why was this site chosen specifically?
A: The selected site in Offerman, Pierce County is on the CSX mainline between Jesup and Waycross and has an existing sidetrack. A natural gas main runs along US 84 and a power transmission line crosses the property. The nearby land uses are compatible with the mineral sand plant. The site had previously been used as a log yard, and a part of it is being developed as a truck repair shop. There is an existing chip mill immediately adjacent to the site.
Q: How many jobs will be created, and how many of those are likely to go to local people?
A: We anticipate employing 35 people in various skilled positions. Southern Ionics will attempt to hire locally as much as possible. Some specialized positions, such as the plant metallurgist, may require hiring from outside the region. During the construction phase, we plan to hire as many local contractors as possible, as well as specialized contractors with experience constructing similar facilities. This facility represents a multi-million dollar capital investment into Pierce County.
Q: Will there be traffic to and from the site?
A: We anticipate that approximately 25 trucks per day will access the plant from US 84.
Q: Will the new Mineral Sand Plant be noisy?
A: No. The conveyors, rotating magnets, electrical motors, and gas-powered dryer produce a soft whirring sound that is not typically audible outside of the plant.
Q: Will the new Mineral Sand Plant impact air quality?
A: The drier will burn natural gas. Emissions will consist of water vapor and some combustion byproducts (CO2). There will be no odor. We are applying for an air quality permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The drier will be classified as a "minor source".
Q: Will operations take place at night, and if so, how will noise and light be minimized?
A: The facility will operate 24 hours daily. We plan to design the facility with lights that reduce glare. The low level of noise at the facility will be consistent at all times.
Q: Will the Mineral Sand Plant pollute nearby streams?
A: No. We are currently working to design the plant so that wash water will be recycled. The small volume of wastewater that may be generated will either be treated on site with a drain field or stored and removed by tanker truck for disposal at a sewage treatment plant.
Q: Who should I contact if I have additional questions?
A: As work progresses, Southern Ionics will provide updates online at www.southernionics.com, in news outlets, and through meetings with interested individuals and groups. If you have additional questions, please contact Ron Rose, Southern Ionics Director of Mining, at Mining@southernionics.com.