Refinery planned in Lawton may be key to security

September 9, 2023

Journal Record Staff

Officials break ground on a new nickel/cobalt refinery to be built in Lawton.

A refinery under construction in Lawton could play an important role in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign countries as providers of critical minerals.

Westwin Elements broke ground recently at the site of a planned state-of-the-art nickel/cobalt refinery in the southwest Oklahoma community adjacent to the Fort Sill Army installation. Officials said the facility’s construction not only will be significant in reducing U.S. reliance on other countries for critical supply chain materials, but also will create jobs and foster regional economic growth.

“With the help of companies like Westwin, Oklahoma is securing the critical mineral supply chain and becoming a national leader in this industry,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said.

By leveraging a strategic lease agreement and forgivable loan, Lawton will play a role in facilitating Westwin’s specific needs for the refinery, officials said. A 480-acre tract in the city’s OK SW Rail Industrial Park will be home to the pilot refinery’s construction, carried out in collaboration with Ambler Architects, based in Bartlesville. A strategic partnership guarantees an accelerated timeline for completion, estimated to take less than five months.

Westwin has ensured responsible sourcing of cobalt and nickel and compliance with all applicable regulatory bodies. The company’s refining processes, it said in a release, have been honed over years of experience and result in high-quality products and environmental “neutrality” while maintaining competitive pricing relative to foreign sources.

“Westwin is committed to the responsible sourcing of cobalt and nickel (and) complying with local, state, and global regulatory authorities,” company founder and CEO KaLeigh Long said.

According to the release, Long assembled a team of industry engineers with more than 200 years of combined expertise to deliver market products.

“Oklahoma is proud to lead the effort of reshoring critical minerals to the United States. This venture aligns with our efforts to advance economic development and supply chain recruitment,” said Matt Pinnell, the state’s lieutenant governor and secretary of workforce and economic development. “We look forward to assisting Westwin Elements as they begin this project.”

Dennis Muilenberg, a former CEO at Boeing and current Westwin Elements board member, said the new plant will contribute to American security and successes in a variety of industries.

“I am all in for this because it is not only important to business, aerospace, medicine, and more, but it is also a huge advancement for national security,” he said.