UTAH MINE PRODUCES WATER PURIFICATION PRODUCTS
It's ironic to think that some of the products of brackish water are chemicals that are used to purify water. That's the case at US Magnesium in Utah, which uses the brackish water of the Great Salt Lake to produce chlorine and iron chloride for water purification facilities.
US Magnesium mines salts on the shores of the Great Salt Lake to produce magnesium metal and alloys, as well as chlorine, calcium chloride, iron chlorides, and hydrochloric acid. The facility is 60 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, and spans over 80,000 acres. A vast solar evaporation system produces magnesium chloride feedstock for the magnesium production facility and the other chemicals.
Most production work is done by the sun. In fact, US Magnesium is one of the largest industrial users of solar energy in the world and is the Company's principle source of energy, accounting for approximately 90% of the total energy input into the overall magnesium production process. Evaporation from the sun increases the concentration of magnesium chloride in brine from the Great Salt Lake by 2000%. Production is simple: Lake brine is piped into a pond and the water allowed to evaporate. As the water dries out, salt crystals form. When most of the salt crystallizes out, the remaining brine is moved to another pond and allowed to evaporate more until potassium sulfate crystallizes. After that, the remaining brine is magnesium chloride.
The refinery then purifies the magnesium chloride for magnesium production. The high purity magnesium is produced with electrolytic cells that produce both magnesium and chlorine. However, there are also applications for pure magnesium chloride. It is a popular dust control agent for mines and construction companies because it attracts water from the atmosphere and moistens the fine dust and clays enough to prevent them from becoming airborne.
US Magnesium produces a wide range of chemicals for water purification. It is one of the largest producers of iron chlorides in the western US for use in drinking and waste water treatment. Iron chlorides are used as a flocculent to remove several dangerous heavy metals like arsenic from drinking water. In sewage plants, iron chlorides are used to remove phosphorous used in detergents and heavy metals. They are also critical for removing that "rotten egg" smell from water that contains hydrogen sulfide. Iron chloride treatment allows many waste water plants to meet EPA discharge standards without costly expenditures on new equipment.
Another water purification product that comes from US Magnesium is liquid chlorine. Chlorine is supplied in tank cars for the water treatment industry, to ensure that water is free of bacteria and viruses. It's also used as a feedstock for several chemicals used to treat your backyard pool water.
Even the brackish water of the evaporation ponds has a benefit. Thanks to the evaporation ponds, the US Magnesium property is a natural habitat for migrating birds. The higher salinity in these ponds provides a supply of food for the migrating birds in the form of brine flies and brine shrimp. There are times during the year when their solar ponds are host to American avocets, sandpipers, eared grebes, Wilson's phalaropes, and California gulls.
US Magnesium was a member of the Great Salt Lake Water Bird Survey team that did extensive bird census work to learn about wildlife population trends on the Great Salt Lake and the relationship of bird ecology and changing lake levels and salinity ten years ago. In 2005, US Magnesium donated 16 acres of land on the northern end of Stansbury Island for development of a Wildlife Interpretive Center, providing conservation education and Lake access to the public. Stansbury Island, the second largest island of Great Salt Lake, is named for Captain Howard Stansbury who, in 1850, surveyed Great Salt Lake and environs.
Traditionally, magnesium production from magnesium chloride has been considered environmentally unfriendly. However, US Magnesium has reduced chlorine emissions by 99%, air emissions by 95%, and unit energy consumption by 25%. This combination led to the Company being awarded the prestigious Utah Manufacturing Environmental Consciousness Award in 2007.