OMYA Open House: A peek inside the Superior plant

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By Mila Besich-Lira

On Saturday, OMYA opened their doors to the public for a tour and open house of their facilities. OMYA is a leading global producer of industrial minerals that come from calcium carbonate.

The company has 100 locations in 50 countries and they have 7,000 employees worldwide. The blue and white building that sits at the north end of the industrial park off of US 60 is the home to OMYA Worldwide, and the OMYA plant in Superior has 14 full time employees.

The Superior OMYA operation processes the calcium carbonate for food and pharmaceutical products. The plant has an FDA Certification and is also Kosher certified.

Everything from toothpaste, cereal, gum and even orange juice contains the mineral calcium carbonate and more than likely that mineral was processed right here in Superior. One of the their biggest customers is General Mills.

Calcium carbonate, or CaCO3, comprises more than four percent of the earth’s crust and is found throughout the world, according to the Industrial Minerals Association of North America. Its most common natural forms are chalk, limestone, and marble, produced by the sedimentation of the shells of small fossilized snails, shellfish, and coral over millions of years.

Although all three forms are identical in chemical terms, they differ in many other respects, including purity, whiteness, thickness and homogeneity. Calcium carbonate is one of the most useful and versatile materials known to man.

While there are calcium carbonate mines near Superior the food grade quality mineral that is processed in Superior is shipped from California via trucks. The bright white rocks are separated on the outside of the facility and then dropped into the crusher.

Depending on the type of calcium carbonate needed the machinery in the plant is operated through a computer system. The computer system then tells the machinery how fine or coarse to process the materials.

Once the order is processed it is packaged and prepared for shipment all within the facility. Robotics also play a large role in the packaging of the materials. Once packaged, the materials are warehoused at the facility until the material is picked up for shipment to the end user. The product is transported throughout the US but is also sent overseas via ship containers to food producers overseas. To conserve energy, the company operates most of the machinery at night and has very little waste in their operations.

Prior to the housing and construction slowdown the Superior OMYA plant also processed industrial grade materials from local calcium carbonate mines. The local pit near Superior is just off US 60 north of the Oak Flats.

In addition to offering the tours of the plant, visitors also had the opportunity to learn more about minerals and geology. One of the displays showed how an ordinary rock to the naked eye really has more to see when put under ultraviolet light. Once put under these lights the rocks would glow as minerals such as magnesium, dolomite, molybdenum and even small traces of uranium could be seen.

In the lobby of the offices for OMYA were bright colorful advertisements for toothpaste. Recently OMYA conducted a science workshop at the elementary school which taught the students how to make toothpaste. Each classroom then prepared a poster to advertise their new toothpaste product. Guests to the open house were able to vote for their favorite poster.

Lunch was provided to those visiting the plant, supplies for the lunch were donated by OMYA and were prepared by the Superior High School DECA club. Guests were asked to make a donation to the club for preparing the food.

OMYA Worldwide has been in operation in Superior since 2000. OMYA was one of the first tenants in the Superior Industrial Park after the park was completed. The industrial park was built with partnerships with BHP, the Town of Superior and the United States Economic Development Administration.

See photos from the OMYA Open House

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