ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The dolomite-rich Florida Mountains just south of Deming could bring hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to one of the poorest areas of the state.
That’s because dolomite contains substantial amounts of magnesium oxide, which can be processed into magnesium metal. It’s a metal in growing demand among car makers and other heavy transportation manufacturers because of its light weight and greater-than-steel strength.
The extensive dolomite deposits that rest on top of the Floridas could potentially supply up to 100 million tons of magnesium, encouraging a new company, American Magnesium LLC, to pursue construction of a quarry and magnesium processing complex at the Peru Mill Industrial Park just north of Deming.
“There’s one billion tons just sitting there,” said David Tognoni, a geologist and the general partner president at American Magnesium. “It’s a huge source of dolomite – enough to produce for over 100 years.”
The company wants to invest $100 million to start in a production facility capable of processing 30,000 tons of magnesium metal annually for the domestic U.S. market, providing 500 jobs. Depending on demand, it could expand to a $1 billion investment producing up to 300,000 tons annually with about 5,000 workers, Tognoni said.
It could also produce 250,000 tons of Portland cement to start and up to 2.5 million tons when expanded because, once processed, dolomite breaks down into 10 percent magnesium, 10 percent dolomite and the other 80 percent is used to make cement.
“We wouldn’t be building a mine, but rather a magnesium metal complex, because quarrying the dolomite is only about 10 percent of the operation,” Tognoni said. “The other 90 percent is the high-tech magnesium complex. We’d include value-added processing to turn it into magnesium sheet rolls, ingots and bars.”
The company has completed a scoping study done by the TRU Group, a manufacturing industry consultant, and has been meeting this year with financial institutions, potential customers and state officials.
Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela said the project could provide a huge boost to New Mexico’s mining industry.
“American Magnesium shows the promise to bring thousands of well-paying jobs to New Mexico,” Barela said.
The company has yet to begin the permitting process. Energy and Minerals and Natural Resources Department Secretary David Martin declined to discuss the project with the Journal because it is still too premature.