A global partnership is re-opening a mine in a small west coast of Scotland village and aims to export up to 100,000 tons of sand a year.
Lochaline Quartz Sand Ltd, a joint venture between Italian mining company Gruppo Minerali Maffei (GMM) and the global glass manufacturer Pilkington (part of the NSG Group), is celebrating its official opening today (Friday 14 September).
The investment is creating 11 jobs in a rural community which has a population of approximately 300. The sandmine has lain dormant since the previous operator closed it at the end of 2008.
Pilkington has previously sourced specialist sand from Egypt and Europe for its UK operations. It has now agreed a 10 year supply contract for low-iron silica sand to produce Pilkington Optiwhite™- low-iron glass for building and solar cell applications, securing the long term future of the Lochaline mine.
Project manager, Daniele Trogolo Got, is a qualified mining engineer and employee of the Italian partner in the joint venture - Gruppo Minerali. Hailing from Pinerolo near Turin, he has been working at Lochaline for one or two weeks per month since the company took over operations at the mine.
He said: "This is a good opportunity to work in this interesting mine. Due to its distinct geological setting it produces very nice sand. The mine and the plant are being refurbished and high investments for new equipment are taking place. This project proves that with business partners and workers from different countries it is possible that even in a time of European crisis we can move forward."
MSP Dave Thompson is officially opening the sand mine. He said: "Local people have embraced the re-opening of the mine. As well as creating jobs, LQS Ltd is already playing an important part in community life. The company has been very supportive of the community marina development and is assisting with the construction of the access road to the marina's shore facilities and providing sand for the creation of the artificial beach."
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is supporting the investment with a grant of £155,000 to allow the business to upgrade and renew equipment. HIE is also providing support towards workforce training.
Ian Philp, development manager with HIE, said: "We are delighted to have supported what is a significant inward investment for the area. The creation of the 11 new jobs and the increased turnover the business will deliver will have a very welcome impact on the local economy."