Mafic USA has commenced operations at the world’s largest basalt fiber production facility in Shelby, North Carolina. It is also the first such facility in North America.
Last week, the company completed the highly calibrated process of starting-up the plant’s furnace. This week, Mafic’s team began melting basalt rock and pulling the first fiber at the plant. This marks a major step forward in the company’s goal to bring basalt fiber to North American markets and to produce the product on a commercially viable scale.
The plant takes lava rocks, melts them down, and creates a fiber similar to fiberglass. But basalt fibers are stronger, more heat resistant and also more environmentally friendly than fiberglass, according to the company.
“This is an important milestone in our company’s history. The production of basalt fiber on a large-scale will be a game-changer in a number of industries,” said CEO Mike Levine.
Mafic began construction of the $20 million facility, located 45 miles from Charlotte, NC, in 2016. The company purchased the property in 2016 and started the engineering and permit phase. It took around three and a half years from start to finish.
The new facility will be capable of producing 6,000 metric tons of basalt fiber annually, nearly 30 percent of the current global output of basalt fiber. In preparation for commercial operations, Mafic is hiring nearly 50 skilled employees to operate the facility 24-hours/day, 7-days/week. The Shelby, NC-facility is the first of several planned production facilities in the United States.
“We feel the demand is going to be great. We’re really proud of it. One day everyone will know what basalt fiber is.” said Stephen Savage, director of human resources for Mafic.
Mafic sells basalt fibers to companies that use the material as a composite to give products strength properties, such as in rebar, or in the automotive industry for car parts, cylinders for natural gas or even to create military products.
He said one of the reasons the company chose North Carolina was because of the work of the economic development team.
Savage said the Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership rolled out the red carpet and made them feel welcome when scoping out potential sites.
Savage and Levine said Cleveland County was the right fit because of its relationship with PPG and the existing infrastructure already in place.
“It was a real special day to see that first fiber come out,” Savage said. He said it is all a result of CEO Mike Levine’s vision.
Mafic currently employs 35 people and expects that number to climb to 50 by the end of the year. Once a second factory is complete, Savage said they ultimately hope to employ around 300 at both sites.