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Plant switches to producing agri

Jan 30, 2024Jan 30, 2024

Nick Sonnesyn of Western Mining and Minerals loads a truck March 16 with gypsum on its way to Three Forks, Mont., at the gypsum plant.

While the CertainTeed gypsum plant and mine have ceased the processes needed to make wallboard, the company is finding a new use for the gypsum in the area related to agriculture.

That could lead to more jobs than the 10 currently employed under what is now Western Mining and Minerals, Inc., a registered soil conditioner and soil amendment producer.

When the closure of the wallboard process was announced last year the plant had 50 employees.

"With the agri-gypsum business (and other business opportunities generated with the mine operation), we expect to grow the team from 30% to 50% in the next 3 to 5 years," said Roberto Margutti, US Mining Operations Manager at CertainTeed Gypsum.

There are five CertainTeed employees at the plant and about five contractors working at the CertainTeed Cody mine and rock transportation from the mine to the plant.

In addition to the Agri-gypsum business, Margutti said the company forecasts other indirect employment opportunities leasing out some of the Cody plant space to potential investors.

"We are pleased to have a new opportunity to maintain our operations in Cody, Wyo.," he said. "In order to develop this new business, WMMI has started producing agricultural gypsum to supply local farmers and agriculture supply distributors, and has retained the plant property for rock handling and shipment activity.

"We are pleased to be building our new operation with support from many of the same employees who have worked in our drywall plant previously, who will now help operate and manage the agricultural gypsum business."

In January 2020, CertainTeed Gypsum stopped production of drywall products at the plant. The local mining operation was temporarily closed as the decommissioning process began on the site in order to evaluate options for the plant.

The plant was successfully decommissioned in mid-December 2020, without any incidents or injuries. Part of the procedure to close the plant included the removal of the remnant gypsum board pile, which was visible from town. To date, an estimated 95% of the material has been removed and the company has set a target of mid-April to begin the reclamation process of the site.

CertainTeed Gypsum has also made the decision to repurpose the property in Cody to develop the agricultural gypsum (agri-gypsum) product line, taking advantage of the local gypsum resource and rail transportation capabilities.

Gypsum is a mineral intended to improve the physical or chemical characteristics of soil. The company will aim to supply agri-gypsum to Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota's farming and agriculture distributors.

Natural gypsum is used as a natural fertilizer and soil amendment. High purity gypsum, like that found at Cody, is a calcium and sulfur nutrient for the soil. Plants that have a higher protein content, like alfalfa, wheat, canola and similar crops need sulfur for increased yield. Agri-gypsum is beneficial for reducing high pH soils and restoring sodic soils under high salinity conditions. Agri-gypsum is an effective alternative to synthetic gypsum or other sulfur by-products, and is a preferred option for organic farming and improvement of soil quality.

In early 2021, the Gypsum mining operation was reopened at Horse Center II to supply high purity gypsum to the plant for rock processing and distribution by truck or rail shipment. WMMI has signed long term supply contracts with customers and is currently exploring other growth opportunities with potential business partners. WMMI said they remain committed to exploring opportunities to lease a portion of the unused plant.

Interested parties can contact the company at [email protected] or (307) 587-2236.

Western Mining and Minerals is also hosting a March 27 lunch and learn, which will highlight the benefits of using agricultural gypsum as a soil amendment. There will also be a Victor 300 precision spreader to look at with the owner operator to answer at questions.

Hot dogs and drinks will be available for all that attend. RSVP by text to (484) 639-4075. This event will be located at 88 County Road 2AB.

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