Western Magnesium takes first major step into Harrison County

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HARRISON COUNTY—The Western Magnesium Corporation followed through this week after recently announcing its plans to open a first-of-its-kind plant in the United States and the first magnesium plant in 50 years. A document was signed late Tuesday morning commencing the company’s due diligence while a host of Harrison County, state, and federal officials was present, including U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson (R, District 6), State Representative Don Jones (R, District 95), and State Senator Frank Hoagland (R, District 30).

Finding the best site lasted 16 months, which included approximately six months of JobsOhio and Harrison County Community Improvement Corporation involvement. 

Rep. Johnson said it was only the beginning, and he sees other companies possibly piggybacking Western Magnesium’s move.

“You will not find a harder working group of people and such a strong work base for what you’re trying to do,” Johnson told the crowd. And Sen. Hoagland followed by expressing hope the county’s youth would have a place to work with a better future. State Rep. Jones also said, “We have to find reasons for our kids to stay,” as he thanked JobsOhio and southeast Ohio for their efforts.

Executive President and CEO of Western Magnesium Sam Ataya talked about building an eco-friendly environment. “So really, overall, it’s an exciting opportunity for creating not only a corporate culture but an eco-friendly culture as well,” Ataya stated. “And it speaks volumes to a state that is considered industrial and was dealing with coal and other, what we might consider environmental issues that come along with it and hear it’s the opposite of that; it’s exciting.”

Ataya said his company has been pushing toward this for years and continued to stress the importance of building the magnesium plant here in the United States and operated by Americans. 

“We can build it here. We can be competitive here and have our own people working here,” Ataya explained. “It’s what drove America initially. I don’t know why we’ve lost touch with that.”

Ataya said the cost to build the plant would be around $1 billion, but the 200 permanent jobs promised is just a start — it could mushroom into hundreds more if everything goes according to plan. And the plan also includes working in conjunction with the Harrison Power Plant that EmberClear has proposed for Industrial Park Road. 

Expectations on the power plant have dragged on for years, though there are indications that plans for the natural gas plant are still moving forward. When asked how much the power plant would affect the magnesium plans, Ataya said it is “part of the due diligence process.” He added that managing expectations and doing the due diligence, two common themes used throughout the event, amounted to the 16-month process that landed Western Magnesium in Harrison County (with some help from JobsOhio and other community members).

“So, it’s not an easy step that you take. It’s just part of the due diligence process,” Ataya explained. When asked when the actual process would start, he said now and pointed to a drone hovering above. The drone was already marking and surveying land that would be used by Western Magnesium, even as the event was taking place. 

Harrison County Economic Development Director Nick Homrighausen said the process began with a “state lead” where JobsOhio — then the Harrison County Community Improvement Corporation — assisted Western Magnesium in finding the right area as they narrowed it down to a few locations.

The Harrison County Community Improvement Corporation president, Dale Arbaugh, said they were excited about the proposed 200 jobs being brought to the county. He said the exciting part was that even though the oil and gas brought Western Magnesium to the area, it won’t be directly tied to the industry but rather a branch of oil and gas. 

“Currently, Western Magnesium has successfully produced ‘green’ magnesium in a pilot-scale reactor and will continue to demonstrate the technology in a methodical manner to achieve the goal of commercial-scale production,” per a statement on their official website. Ataya described the plant as taking up around 300,000 square feet and consisting of multiple buildings, but they will begin by using just 50 of the 122 planned acres.

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