CARDIN, OK - This depressed northeastern Oklahoma town is pinning its hopes for a better tomorrow on a new manufacturer of heavy off-highway trucks that move earth and ores at surface mines.
It is fitting that Cardin's chances for recovery come from the mining equipment industry.
For two generations, northeastern Oklahoma's fields and hills gave up their wealth in lead and zinc and byproduct minerals, only to be abandoned and left with giant piles of slag that dot the countryside.
And, early this year, the B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co. manufacturing plant in Miami, which produced giant tires for the heavy construction and mining industry, closed for lack of business, depriving the area of its largest employer.
Now a firm in Cardin is making giant vehicles capable of moving up to 240 tons per load of overburden earth, coal, copper, phosphates and iron ore in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, the copper and iron ore deposits nearby and, one day, the hard-rock mining industry in Australia, Africa and Europe.
Operating from a plant once occupied by Eagle Picher Co. in the heyday of lead and zinc mining, Wiseda Ltd. has produced three $1.4 million rear-dump haulers that load 41 percent more cargo than the industry's standard 170-ton vehicles.
One hauler has been operating in the West for nearly four years for mining divisions of the Sun Cos., a major producer and marketer of oil and natural gas.
Two have been delivered to the Arco Inc. soft coal mines in the Powder River Basin, a major source of soft, low-sulfur coal for electric-generating steam plants, including coal-burning generating plants in Oklahoma. The state's utilities and public power firms use tens of thousands of tons of Powder River Basin coal each week.
Wiseda has a contract to deliver four of the huge haulers to Arco Corp. to handle soft coal from the Thunder Basin Coal Co.'s Black Thunder Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Two have been put into service and two are under construction.
Wiseda has two others under construction speculatively to sell to customers in the United States or overseas.
The payroll of 50 workers in Cardin contributes more than $700,000 a year to the economies of Cardin, Picher, Quapah, Commerce and Miami.
Wiseda buys components from suppliers in the Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas Four Corners. The huge tires come from U.S. companies such as Goodyear and Firestone. Goodrich decided not to increase its tire sizes to fit the larger haulers.
Major mechanical and control components are supplied by U.S. automotive manufacturers. When a foreign market is developed, a good percentage of the components will be supplied by workers in those countries.
Weseda's president is Bill Lewis, an engineer who supervised the designs that increased the carrying capacity of haulers in the mining industry.
His colleagues give him full credit for putting the behemoths in the Western surface-mine fields, asserting that he had enough confidence in the product to put the first one in full commercial operations to work out the bugs, and won the gamble.