A federal judge has given opponents of a silicon metal plant in Mississippi's northeast corner a chance to make their case in court.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock on Friday set a Dec. 2 hearing in Aberdeen to allow challengers to a permit issued by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to argue for a preliminary injunction. That could halt construction at the $200 million plant being built in Burnsville. The plant is supposed to hire 200 workers and refine 36,000 metric tons of silicon metal each year.
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It's another stage in the legal push against Mississippi Silicon by a Miami-based competitor, Globe Specialty Metals. Though other American companies refine silicon metal for their own use, Globe's four plants are the only domestic producers for commercial markets.
Rima Holdings USA owns 80 percent of Mississippi Silicon and is an affiliate of Brazil's Rima Industrial SA. The remainder is owned by investors led by John Correnti. He led construction of what is now the Steel Dynamics mill in Columbus.
Mississippi Silicon has attacked the standing of the plaintiffs, 16 Front Street LLC and C. Richard Cotton of Saltillo. Globe-owned 16 Front Street LLC was incorporated on Oct. 6, the day the suit was filed. Cotton is a writer who says the plant's pollution would hurt his enjoyment of area parks and lakes.
Represented by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, the plaintiffs argue the permit is faulty because Mississippi didn't give the required 30 days for comment and didn't hold a public hearing. They say people had 29 days at best to comment, and less time actually, because documents didn't arrive at the Burnsville library until later. They also argue those materials didn't state the true level of Mississippi Silicon's pollution. The plaintiffs point to an MDEQ email in claiming that the state and Mississippi Silicon conspired to illegally shorten comments to prevent objections from steelmaker Nucor Corp.
Nucor objected to the Big River Steel mill that a Correnti-led group is building in Arkansas.
Mississippi Silicon says that, among other problems, the plaintiffs should have sued the MDEQ and should have given 60 days' notice before filing.
The plaintiffs had sought a temporary restraining order, but Aycock denied that, saying they hadn't met the high barrier for her to order an immediate halt to the work. She also rejected Mississippi Silicon's motion to dismiss, but she said she was uncertain if the court was the right place to decide the subject, and ordered both sides to file briefs on whether she has jurisdiction
Globe has sued three other times. In Hinds County and Tishomingo County chancery courts, Globe argued Mississippi improperly denied an appeal of the permit. Mississippi argues Globe waited past the 30-day appeal period.
Globe also filed a federal suit in the District of Columbia in August claiming Rima tricked the U.S. government into removing antidumping duties on Brazilian imports by lying that it didn't have any U.S. affiliate companies. The suit alleges Rima is using ill-gotten gains from that fraud to build the Burnsville plant.
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