Lawton City Council approves plan to bring cobalt refinery to town

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 8:05 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Lawton City Council approved a plan to build and operate a cobalt refinery on Thursday.

Westwin Elements Incorporated received a unanimous yes vote at Lawton City council, giving them the green light to begin building a cobalt refinery in Lawton. They would then be required to operate the facility for ten years.

Officials said the refinery would be a multi-million dollar investment and create thousands of jobs.

“You know this is cutting edge technology, environmentally friendly, environmentally natural refining of a very important mineral important to our national security. That’s one reason why it’s fitting that they choose Lawton-Fort Sill, because we’re such a patriotic community,” Mayor Stan Booker said.

While the Mayor and Council members are all on board for this, some residents voiced their concerns about the company.

“Westwin Elements does not have mining or refinery experience,” one Lawton resident said.

“I agree big business needs to come to Lawton, I am all for that, but are we willing to sell our soul out to a company that looks good on the surface, but have not thoroughly researched?” asked another resident.

“The company Westwin Elements is only about a year old, but the process real refining brains behind this is a company [called] CVMR, and they’ve been in business for 30 years, and they have 30 patents on this refinement process,” Richard Rogalski, executive director for the Lawton Economic Development Authority, said.

Another concern residents have is how environmentally safe this will be. But Rogalski claimed the company has an exclusive technology to mitigate those damages.

“This whole technology with that environment in mind, this process is environmentally friendly to start with, like you said we also have those other insurance, in case there is a spill or something,” Rogalski said.

Rogalski said the cobalt refinery is projected to create more than two thousand jobs with an average salary of $100,000.

“That’s a great mark, that’s our benchmark, $100,000 jobs, and that is an average. That means there will be people who make much less and there will be people that make more and that’s an average. But even more, than that $100,000 jobs create more jobs in the community,” Mayor Stan Booker said.

This yes vote is just the beginning phase of this whole project. Westwin Elements has 6 months to show its commitment to finance $126 million for the project, before Lawton chips in $10 million of city money.

“They have 6 months to do that, the agreement says they will actually start the construction prior to December of this year, December of 2023,” Rogalski said.