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Fire clay mine reclamation honors the land in HWI communities

Oct 17, 2022 / ESG Stories

Natural fire clay is fundamental for refractories manufacturing because its two primary ingredients, alumina, and silica, possess extremely high-temperature melting points: higher, in fact, than for any other manufacturing process. These heat-protective properties are why refractories are essential for producing steel, glass, aluminum, and numerous other materials and products. HWI has become an industry leader by engineering highly sophisticated refractories materials designed expressly for countless specific applications.

Fire clay is mined from the earth, and over the past 150+ years, most of our HWI facilities have been strategically located in regions near fire clay deposits. Once the clay is mined, the site needs to be reclaimed.

The process reduces the visible effects of surface mining. Eventually, it returns the land to a beneficial state for public open spaces, wildlife habitats, farmland, or residential or commercial development sites. In fact, since the early 1970s, HWI has reclaimed more than 100 mine sites in Missouri alone.

The Holzschuh Clay Pit near Canaan, Missouri, supplied raw and calcined fire clay for use in products we make at our Vandalia, Fulton, South Point, Minerva, Acton, and Monterrey plants.

Following the end of its lifecycle as an active mine, HWI reclaimed the Holzschuh Clay Pit and began the process of converting it into a pond for potential recreational or commercial use.

In the case of Holzschuh, our reclamation team begins the process by removing and separating the unwanted materials, called “overburden,” from the mineral deposits. They then use this “spoil” to build a dam on the downhill side of the pit.

Once the team establishes erosion control using the spoil, they collect and separate the topsoil from it to cover the dam and surrounding areas. Finally, they seed and water the area with vegetative sand to encourage plant growth. Once that sand is down, it is time to wait and let nature take its course.

The reclamation process takes about a month in terms of physical labor, and another two years to establish full vegetative growth, depending on the growing season. Now entering the final growth phase, Holzschuh is on schedule to be completely reclaimed and complete by fall 2022.

Mine reclamation is one way we deliver environmental sustainability in the communities where we operate.

  • Before reclamation
  • During reclamation
  • After reclamation

About HWI, A member of Calderys

HWI is the largest supplier of refractory products and services in the United States, with a history that spans more than 150 years. It is part of Calderys and is the brand for the Americas region of the Group. HWI counts 25 manufacturing sites and 20 distribution centers in the Americas, as well as the largest refractory industry research facility in North America. Serving virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to enhance production and protect assets, HWI is consistently recognized for its talented experts, industry firsts, and intensely driven excellence.

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