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USDA makes $3M investment in Shelby's Mafic USA

Basalt fiber plant to be the only North American manufacturer of the useful fibers.

On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, at 11 a.m., USDA Rural Development State Director Reginald Speight announced an investment with Mafic USA, located at 119 Metrolina Dr., Shelby, in the Foothills Industrial Park.

According to a USDA media release, Mafic USA will use a $3 million USDA Business and Industry loan to "...finance the purchase of equipment to expand the capacity of its Shelby facility." Mafic USA, a basalt fiber manufacturing plant, uses basalt (a.k.a. mafic volcanic rock) and creates high-quality, tensile and very usable fiber for many varied purposes.

This investment, noted the information in the media release, reiterates the President's State of the Union address remarks about the "...value of American made products."

President Biden was also quoted thusly, "There's something happening in America. The rebirth of the pride that comes from stamping products 'Made in America'. The revitalization of American manufacturing."

Director Speight, of Raleigh, was joined by several representatives from Mafic USA, along with several federal and local officials.

"Mafic USA is about to become the largest volume producer of basalt fiber once the plant reaches full capacity," Speight noted in the media release. "This underscores the President's desire for the United States to move away from foreign supply chains and make quality products here at home."

He also thanked everyone at Mafic for all the work they do, adding, "We're here to recognize Mafic as the world's leading producer of basalt fiber and Shelby's plant as the largest in the world doing this type of work."

Mafic VP of Global Sales and Marketing Lee Berry said the process they use takes the basalt rock, melts it at 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit in order to use it and create the fibers they need to make their product. Berry said the facility opened two years ago.

Berry further noted the material has a multitude of uses in the construction, aerospace, automotive, marine, and defense industries.

Cleveland County Commis-sioners Deb Hardin, Johnny Hutchins, Doug Bridges, and Ronnie Whetstine were on hand for the event. Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman, as well as Jordan Barnes, the regional representative for Sen. Thom Tillis, were also present.

Mafic USA's Human Resources Director, Stephen Savage, thanked everyone for coming, adding, "We are proud to be in Cleveland County." He also invited everyone to stay for lunch after the signing. The meal was catered by Red Bridges Barbecue, of Shelby.

According to Mafic's website, they "...began construction of the $20 million facility in 2016. The facility is capable of producing 6,000 metric tons of basalt fiber annually which, as per the website is nearly 30 percent of the current global output of basalt fiber."

The product - basalt fiber - is a "...drawn continuous fiber similar to glass (i.e. fiberglass) and to fibers made from carbon or aramid" and is produced when the mined basalt rock is first washed and then placed into a furnace and melted. It is then extruded through a "bushing" (a precious metal block with thousands of microscopic holes, each producing a single filament). As per the website, the "...fiber filament hardens and a sizing is applied to improve its properties before the fiber filaments are wound with other finished fibers into a strand."

For more information on them and their product, visit their website at www.mafic.com.

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