Companies considering $800M ‘rare earth’ investment in Gramercy

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

A new business partnership is strongly considering investing $800 million in Gramercy, officials announced Friday.

The project could spur the creation of hundreds of permanent jobs and more than 2,000 temporary construction jobs, officials said. A final decision is expected within a year.

DADA Holdings, which owns Gramercy-based Noranda Alumina, is partnering with green technology firm Enervoxa to separate rare earth elements and other valuable minerals from alumina byproducts. The joint venture formed last year is called ElementUS.

Alumina is used to produce aluminum and other products. Rare earth elements are used in many high-tech devices, including applications used in national defense.

The carbon-neutral project would employ 200 workers with an average annual salary of more than $85,000 plus benefits, officials said. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project indirectly would spur creation of 590 jobs, for a total of nearly 800 new jobs in southeast Louisiana.

Construction would take about two years and require an estimated 2,200 construction jobs.

If the project goes forward, state government will provide a $6 million performance-based grant and use of the state-funded FastStart specialized worker training program.

“ElementUS represents another example of how we can achieve a lower-carbon future by adapting the resources that already exist in Louisiana, applying new technology and leveraging our talented industrial workforce,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a prepared statement.

Edwards established a state Climate Initiatives Task Force last year with the stated goal of putting Louisiana on a path to be carbon neutral by 2050.

“Rare earth elements are in short supply and are vital to national defense, critical technologies and domestic industry in general,” DADA Holdings Chairman and CEO David D’Addario said. “We, alongside Enervoxa, have the opportunity to extract and commercialize valuable rare earths and other minerals while at the same time further reducing the environmental footprint at our alumina refining business and the U.S. dependence on China for these limited and technologically strategic minerals.”

Noranda Alumina already employs more than 400 manufacturing workers at the Gramercy site, which is home to the only major alumina refinery in the U.S., the holding company said.