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Mohawk Garnet shakes up global market

September 1, 2012
by Scott Haddow
In: News with 0 Comments

Mohawk Garnet CEO Bob McMurdy eases a Ford Super-Duty truck up a bumpy, dirt road towards a massive dark grey building off Kukagami Road about 30 minutes east of Sudbury. He brings the vehicle to a halt just outside a garage door opening. A wide smile erupts across his face and he lifts his head high.

“This is what makes us unique, but more importantly, it makes us environmentally-friendly,” he states. “This is our wet processing facility for the garnet. There is no other facility like it in the world.”

The 32,000-square foot wet processing complex is in the final stages of construction. Workers move about inside piecing together large sections of steel and equipment with welders and cranes.

It will be fully operational by November and will take the wet processing of garnet to a whole new level.

“I’m not going to give away too much, but the technology we have has tremendous benefits from an environmental standpoint,” McMurdy said. “It’s a closed loop system. In all the cleaning we do, there are no toxic chemicals and there are no tailings ponds. We use the water, filter the water, clean the water and reuse the water. To our knowledge, we don’t know of another plant in the world that does this and, yes we are proud of it.”

Down the road, right off Highway 17, the company is in the process of completing construction of a 52,000-square foot dry and packaging plant – due to be finished at the end of October. It has been a whirlwind ride for the company the last few years.

Activity on the property started 25 years ago when the garnet deposit was first discovered.

McMurdy said back then, and even 15 to 20 years ago, the market for garnet wasn’t there. It wasn’t a viable operation. (Garnet is used in abrasive blasting techniques.) Most abrasive blasting materials are made of nickel, copper and coal slag. These products have become a hot health and environment issue because they’re damaging to humans, animals, plants and trees. Garnet, being a natural and inert mineral, has none of the health issues associated with the other materials.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Mohawk Garnet built a pilot plant in order to establish processing parameters for the different types of host minerals in the deposit. It was a success and has led to the company building the two facilities and going full steam ahead with tackling the world market for garnet.

McMurdy has been flooded with calls for the product and the deposit itself, which is more than 14 kilometres long. Competing companies, which sell a different form of garnet abrasive, have offered to enter into partnerships. Delegations from around the globe, including China, have tabled offer after offer to purchase the operation.

“The company is a privately owned First Nations business and they’re not about the money,” McMurdy said. “They’re about doing it right and doing it in an environmentally-friendly way. They demanded that it be an environmentally friendly operation. It wasn’t just a lot of talk – it’s been done. We produce a finished product that is market ready on site at our two facilities. It doesn’t get sent out to be refined. We do it all. There’s a huge shortage for garnet globally. Everyone is screaming for garnet because it does the job more productively and efficiently than other material.”

McMurdy said the nature of the garnet found in the Northern Ontario deposit sets it apart from competing garnet products from India and Australia. It is tough and can be used repeatedly.

“We can produce a coarser product than the competing alluvial products from other countries. The garnet can be recycled four to six times before it is no good. This increases savings big time for companies doing abrasive blasting.”

The Mohawk Garnet operation runs, on average, a 15 to 25 per cent grade of garnet in the plant.

There are 125 direct employees working with the company. McMurdy estimates there are more than 125 years of life based on production of 150,000 tonnes a year.

The company has already begun selling the finished garnet abrasive.

“To our knowledge, this is the largest assayed deposit of garnet in the world,” McMurdy said. “It means a lot to us to process the garnet the way we are. It was a lot of extra money, but we are conscious of the environment, and the processing we’re doing can be done everywhere.”

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