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Posted January 7, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Mining company shutters Clear Brook plant

Carmeuse Lime & Stone's facility in Strasburg off Oranda Road recently reopened after being shut down for several weeks in December. Rich Cooley/Daily

CORRECTION: A story published Wednesday should have stated that Carmeuse Lime & Stone's parent company, the Belgium-based Carmeuse Group, acquired Oglebay-Norton Co. of Cleveland last year.

By James Heffernan -- Daily Staff Writer

Carmeuse Lime & Stone is scaling back its local operations in response to what the company says is a "sudden and significant reduced demand for our products."

In a statement, the country's largest producer of lime and limestone products said it has temporarily shuttered its Clear Brook plant, putting 24 people out of work.

The facility, which produces lime for use in industrial applications including steelmaking, will resume normal production once demand picks up again, it said.

In December, Carmeuse ceased lime production in Strasburg for several weeks in order to reduce inventory. That facility recently reopened.

The company said it does not take the furloughs lightly, and will continue to provide health benefits to employees on temporary layoff.

"We recognize the impact on our employees and their families," it said.

No additional layoffs are planned at this point, said Kevin J. Whyte, vice president and general counsel, but the economy is making things tough.

"We can't predict what will happen week to week," he said.

Carmeuse's quarry operations in Clear Brook and Middletown thus far have not been affected, and there has been no impact on the company's regular customers, he said.

Carmeuse mines the area's rich limestone reserves (calcium carbonate) and uses them to extract lime (calcium oxide), which is then used to remove impurities in steel as well as sulfur from coal-fired power plant emissions. Limestone is also used as a building material.

"Those are big markets for us," Whyte said. "Between those two [steel and construction] we're seeing a hit."

Pittsburgh-based Carmeuse Lime & Stone acquired O-N Minerals' mines and plants in Shenandoah and Frederick counties at the beginning of last year as part of its purchase of Oglebay Norton Co.

In May, Carmeuse received a green light from the Frederick County Board of Supervisors to expand its Middletown quarry by nearly 400 acres despite strong opposition from local residents and preservationists concerned about the impact the rezoning would have on the nearby Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Park.

In November, Richmond-based Luck Stone Corp., a family-owned supplier of crushed stone, topsoil, mulch, sand and gravel, abandoned plans for a quarry in Clarke County. That same month, the company announced it would be laying off up to 150 employees.

Contact James Heffernan at jheffernan@nvdaily.com

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