Cargill Inc. announced Wednesday it will open a solar salt-processing plant in early 1985 near Freedom in northwestern Oklahoma that will employ about 50 people.
Construction has begun on the plant, whose annual production capacity will be 200,000 tons. The salt will be sold for livestock and industrial use.
Cargill spokesman Greg Lauser said the 1,900 acres the company is using for the operation was bought from Blackmon Salt Co., a Freedom firm. Freedom, with 339 residents, is in Woods County, about 25 miles west of Alva.
Evan B. Williams, president of Cargill's salt division, said underground salt from the Flowerpot deposit near the Cimarron River will be pumped into 10 solar evaporative ponds. Brine will cure for about nine months to ensure adequate concentration.
Harvested salt will be washed, dried and screened. Salt will be shipped in bulk or bags by truck and pressed into trace-mineral and salt blocks.
Williams said coarse salt will be sold to the water-softening, road de-icing, petroleum, tanning and chemical industries. He said finely screened salt will be used in livestock feed and livestock salt and trace-mineral blocks.
Brine from the plant will be used in oil and gas well drilling.
Lauser said Blackmon is a small company that processed 30,000 tons annually at its peak. He said Cargill does not plan to use Blackmon's processing plant, but will use its warehouse.
Former Blackmon owner Ezra Blackmon said that firm has not operated since 1981, when he sold it to a group of investors that resold the company to Cargill. He said the size of the workforce varied at the plant, although it always was small.
Lauser said Cargill experimented with the natural salt formations near Freedom for two years to determine whether it was sufficient to support a larger processing plant.
Lauser said the 50 jobs at the plant will be year-round employment, with the annual payroll estimated at more than $1 million. He said the company plans to hire from the Freedom area.
Williams said rain water from a large water shed enters the Flowerpot desposit, forming a brine that surfaces in the salt flats near the Cimarron. The reservoir thus formed will be the source of brine for the plant.
Cargill, based in Minneapolis, is an international processor and marketer of agriculture and other bulk products. Besides salt, the company also sells beef, steel and fertilizer.
The firm also operates salt plants in Louisiana, Kansas, New York, California and Australia. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 199188