Carmuese acquired Black River, an underground limestone mine and lime-manufacturing operation along the Ohio River near the city of Butler in Pendleton County, from the Dravo Corporation in 1998. The mine began operation in 1964. Today, Carmeuse employs more than 200 full-time workers at the Black River plant.
Originally, Black River was only a limestone mine. However, in 1969, Armco Steel, which then owned the mine, constructed the first of five lime kilns, the last of which was built in 1995, on a site between Ky. 8 and the Ohio River. Limestone and lime products manufactured at the facility are sent to customers via barges on the Ohio River, trains, and trucks.
The Black River mine is located over 1,800 surface acres and includes 3,348 acres of mineral rights. The mine has more than 395 tons of limestone of the right type of chemical composition to make quality lime products. At current production rates, the mine life is expected to exceed 150 years.
The mine operates two, 10-hour production shifts, four days per week, 52 weeks a year to produce approximately 2.5 million tons of limestone annually. The limestone deposit is mined in two benches. To mine the limestone, holes are drilled into face or floor of the rock deposit and explosives are then placed in the holes to blast away chucks of the limestone. The blasting sequence occurs at the end of each work shift, with a two hour and fifteen minute idle period between the two shifts to allow for gasses and other contaminants to be removed by the ventilation system.
The broken stone is then loaded by front-end loaders into dump trucks. These trucks transport the material to a stone crusher, which then feeds the crushed stone to a conveyor belt that carries the stone out of the mine. Once on the surface, the stone is further crushed, screened, and separated.
Much of the limestone is calcined — heated in kilns to temperatures around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — to produce thiosorbic lime, which is used as a scrubbing agent to remove sulfur dioxide from stack gases at coal-fired power plants as well as to produce quick lime, pulverized lime, and lime for water treatment plants, sewer treatment plants, steel mills, and other industrial and agricultural uses. Five lime kilns are currently in operation at Black River.
Since 2010, Black River also has been home to a family of Peregrine falcons, which decided to make a ladder platform located on the side of one of the company’s 150-foot silos home. The Kentucky Department of Wildlife inspected the nest and determined that the bird had a tracking band on it, which indicated that the bird had migrated to Pendleton County from West Virginia.
State wildlife officials asked the company to place a nesting box on top of a support structure for one of the conveyor tubes that transports lime, which is about 120 feet in the air. After it was installed, the falcons moved into the nesting box have been a part of the Carmeuse family ever since. Wildlife officials continue to monitor the birds’ health and well being.
In 2011, the Black River operations received the the Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce Industry Award, which recognized a Pendleton County business that makes a significant positive contribution to the community’s quality of life.