Path Home Shows 2008 Show Archive August 2008 Show 0832 Gypsum Mine

Gypsum Mine

A natural occurring mineral now used in construction of virtually every home and office building around the world.
Gypsum Mine

Natural mineral

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Show 0832: Gypsum Mine

Air date: August 10, 2008



Rob: Oklahoma's natural resources have long played a key role in our state's economy. Rich in minerals, Oklahoma is home to several mining companies vital to local economies. This week we dig in to the abundance below, and we start with gypsum, a naturally occurring mineral now used in

construction of virtually every home and office building around the world.  For more than 100 years, the U S Gypsum Company has been a leader in producing such products, and our Jessica Lowe visited the plant in western Oklahoma.

Jessica: It looks a lot like snow, but it isn't.

Bill Webber: This is just very high purity gypsum. This is the rock we use for the highest purity and white color requirements of any of the products we make in the plant. This is actually the same

rock that we would eat if we were eating calcium sulfate as a calcium enrichment in any

of the foods we eat.

Jessica: Bill Webber is U S G's Southard plant manager. One of about 60 in the U S G Corporation, and right here, in the middle of western Oklahoma, there's tons of gypsum.

Webber: The Gypsum shows up as a distinct line. The top half is a little bit grayer, the bottom half

is a little bit whiter. All the rock, here, is part of a marine deposit when there was an ocean

that covered this part of Oklahoma, back in the Permian age, which was about 250 million years ago.

Jessica: A gift from Mother Nature, Webber is grateful for.

Webber: Gypsum is a naturally formed mineral; it's calcium sulfate, which is CaS04 2H2O; it has two molecules of water chemically combined, which makes it a very useful mineral for processing.

Jessica: And this U S G Plant is totally self-sufficient.

Webber: We actually start with a naturally formed rock, here at the plant site.  We uncover the rock. We mine it. We bring it up to the plant. We process it with our own equipment. We take the water out of the rock to process it into plaster or stucco. The board department, we actually make

sheetrock, wallboard. The packing department, we make bagged goods of plaster, and it rangers

anywhere from food grade additives, to dental plasters, to plasters for tooling and casting,

road patch material. Gypsum is also used as a soil conditioner, so the dust that we create, that

gets on the soil, actually is beneficial to the soil and the plants.

Jessica: To keep this business intact, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, there are more than 300

highly trained workers. Steve Kliewer is with Northwest Technology Center and is providing on-site training for U S G employees.

Kliewer: We gave them some options as far as training on computers for some of their people who

needed training. We also worked with them as far as networking their whole plant. They needed some

training on fiber-optics termination, and provided some companies for them that had that expertise,

and actually received some grant money to help pay for that training.

Webber: All these people have been trained and developed inside the company to where we're pretty self-sufficient. We have to be, out here there's not a lot of outside contractors that can come in

and provide services in this part of the state.

Jessica: A model company that's built its success, literally, from the ground up.

Rob: Now Jessica tells us the average person consumes, throughout their lifetime, about 28 pounds of gypsum as calcium sulfate. To learn more about the history of gypsum in Oklahoma, just head to our

website and click on value added.