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Zemex Corporation announced that it has agreed to purchase the ball clay and kaolin operations (K-T Clay) of Hecla Mining Company for US$68 million, subject to closing adjustments. K-T Clay, a subsidiary of Hecla, has mining and processing operations in the United States and Mexico, and is the largest producer of ball clay in North America and a strong producer of air-floated kaolin. The total sales of the combined kaolin and ball clay operations of K-T were US$51.6 million in 1999. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval and is scheduled to close in January 2001.
Richard Lister, President of Zemex Corporation, said, "We are very excited about this acquisition as it represents a major building block for our industrial mineral business. K-T and our industrial mineral group supply different products to virtually the same customer base. This combination makes Zemex the largest supplier of all major raw materials to the sanitaryware and tile industry, and further enhances our supply of products to the fiberglass, plastic and coatings markets."
Arthur Brown, Hecla's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, "This is a case where the parts are greater than the whole. We can realize a larger return overall by selling the feldspar segment separate from the ball clay and kaolin divisions. We already have interest in the feldspar business from another party and, in fact, have commenced negotiations on that part of the transaction. However, we wanted to make sure we had a commitment for the purchase of the larger portion first."
He continued, "I feel we received good value for a good asset. Furthermore, Zemex has indicated it expects to retain K-T Clay's employees, and it is important to me to know that our people will have continued employment opportunities."
Hecla had previously announced it intends to use proceeds from the sale of K-T Clay to pay down current bank debt of $55 million coming due next April and for general corporate purposes. The company anticipates the sale of K-T Clay will enhance its potential for future precious metals acquisitions or expansions, as well as eliminating most of the company's bank debt.
Brown said, "This move refocuses us on our historical silver producing heritage."
Zemex Corp. is a diversified producer of industrial minerals and specialty products and, through its Alumitech division, reprocesses aluminum drosses with patented zero discharge technology. Zemex currently operates facilities across the United States and Canada. Its products are used in a variety of commercial applications and are sold throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.