By Cameron Rasmusson
Several public meetings are scheduled for citizens to weigh in on the controversial silicon smelter proposed for construction in Newport, Wash.
The meetings begin next week, starting on Sept. 18 from 6-9 p.m. at Spokane Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., Spokane. Next comes a meeting at Newport High School, 1400 Fifth St., Newport, on Sept. 19 from 6-9 p.m. A meeting will be held at Priest River Event Center, 5399 U.S. 2, Priest River, from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 20. There will also be a webinar hosted on at 3 p.m. on Sept. 27 — visit ecology.wa.gov/ for details and a link to the webinar site.
The public comment period runs until Oct. 11 and will help determine the scope of the environmental impact statement to be conducted by the Washington Department of Ecology. Described by the department as an “impartial, comprehensive document used as a resource for future decision-makers and the public to evaluate the company’s permit applications,” the EIS will be available to the public in draft form sometime next year for comment. Afterward, officials will release a final version of the EIS in late 2019.
The Newport smelter has generated intense controversy since it was proposed, with regional residents packing informational meetings to voice their concerns. If approved, the smelter would be built on more than 180 acres and produce up to 73,000 tons of silicon per year. The Canadian company proposing the facility, HiTest Sands, plans to produce the metal by combining company-supplied quartz rock with wood chips, coal and charcoal at extremely high temperatures. The facility itself would occupy 80 percent of the property acreage, and the tallest building would peak at 157 feet above grade.
According to the Washington Department of Ecology, the silicon production operation would require 170,000 tons of quartz rock and 150,000 tons of blue gem coal and charcoal to be shipped in by train annually. In addition 130,000 tons of wood chips would be transported by truck per year.