Mister sand man: New CEO visits U.S. Silica
Brian Slobodow, the new chief executive officer of U.S. Silica, praised the Ottawa sand mining plant as the "crown jewel" of his company's 13 facilities now in operation throughout the Midwest and Eastern United States during a recent visit.
"I considered the Ottawa operation as our most important and productive plant, which is why U.S. Silica is investing $30 million (here) this year in a huge capital development project," said Slobodow.
The expansion project, which began earlier this year, includes extensions of railroad tracks throughout the facility, the addition of new processing equipment, and the modernization of portions of the facility whose industrial history in the Illinois Valley stretches back to 1893.
"And we expect our expansion efforts to ultimately add a few more jobs here when it goes online before year's end," he said. The plant currently employs 120 union and salaried workers.
Slobodow told The Times he joined the U.S. Silica board of directors about a year ago and was appointed as CEO in March. He said during that time he has visited the Ottawa plant several times and was impressed with the facility, its workers, and the community around it.
"We are blessed with a significant amount of (sand) reserves here and, as a company, we are very happy that continued growth in our business is dictating the recent capital investment," Slobodow said. The Ottawa operation sits on 2,000 acres on both sides of the Illinois River east of Ottawa.
U.S. Silica has been an industry leader for more than 100 years, producing high-quality ungrounded silica sand, ground and fine ground silica, calcined kaolin clay and aplite for a variety of applications.
A privately owned company, U.S. Silica is one of the oldest in the industry, and Slobodow said, as its new CEO, he is committed to continue the company's notable record on worker safety and efficient operations at each of its 13 facilities around the nation.
By industry standards, Ottawa silica sand is unique. Its rounded grains of clear colorless quartz, diamond-like in hardness, are pure silica (silicon dioxide) uncontaminated by clay, loam, iron compounds, or other foreign substances. It is mined from the St. Peter sandstone deposits, a massive formation from 140 to 275 feet in thickness, which outcrops along the Illinois and the Fox rivers near Ottawa.
U.S. Silica's Ottawa plant is North America's largest silica production facility. Ground and unground silica products from the local facility have a wide variety of applications from glass production of all kinds, foundry and refractory sand, abrasives, polishes, paint and other fillers, filtration sand, frac sand, and cement testing sands.
Silica sand mining first began in Ottawa in the 1860s. At that time, in the Ottawa area, glass manufacturing was one of the most important industries and the silica sand and glass manufacturing businesses grew simultaneously. The Ottawa facility became a part of the U.S. Silica family in 1986. The company produces 2.2 million tons of silica annually.