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Bankruptcy filing won’t affect work at Henderson Tronox plant

Tronox Inc., the Oklahoma City-based company spun off by Kerr-McGee Corp., will continue to make chemicals and employ 100 workers at an affiliated company’s Henderson plant, despite filing for bankruptcy protection in New York on Monday.

The company reported $1.6 billion in assets and $1.2 billion in liabilities as of Nov. 30. But the debtor also has $125 million in post-bankruptcy financing to allow it to continue operating.

Filing bankruptcy at the same time were 14 affiliated companies, including Tronox Worldwide LLC, which now owns the plant at the Black Mountain Industrial Center in Henderson. Tronox’s operations in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands did not file for bankruptcy.

Kerr-McGee Corp. spun off Tronox in March 2006 and some liabilities related to remediating chemical contamination went with Tronox, said spokeswoman Debbie Schramm. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. later acquired Kerr-McGee.

The Henderson Tronox plant now makes electrolytic manganese boron, which is used to make alkaline batteries, and elemental boron, a component of automotive safety igniters. It also manufactures boron trichloride, which is used in the pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries, as well as in the manufacture of high-strength boron fibers for sporting equipment and aircraft parts.

The Henderson plant previously made ammonium perchlorate, a rocket fuel booster.

Kerr-McGee stopped making ammonium perchlorate at the plant in 1998. Since then, it has been reducing perchlorate contamination of groundwater that went back decades, Schramm said.

Tronox has cut perchlorate contamination in the Las Vegas Wash by 90 percent, she said. The company has spent $100 million on the remediation.

“We continue to work with (the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection) on that cleanup effort,” she said.

Environmental division spokesman Dante Pistone said Tronox advised the state in advance of its plans to restructure company debt.

“They are not going out of business,” he said. “As far was we’re concerned, the remediation will go on as it has in the past. The state will not be on the hook for any additional costs (because of the bankruptcy).”

The Henderson plant’s perchlorate remediation is one of numerous “legacy liabilities” across the United States, Schramm said. The bankruptcy petition might enable the Tronox companies to reduce their liabilities for chemical contamination.

“A Chapter 11 filing is the best way to address the company’s debt, in particular its legacy liabilities,” Chief Executive Officer Dennis Wanlass said in a statement.

Tronox has spent more than $118 million on such liabilities since being spun off by Kerr-McGee in 2006, Gary Barton, Tronox’s restructuring consultant since July, said in court documents. Kerr-McGee, now owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., has provided $4 million in reimbursements for environmental costs, after pledging as much as $100 million, Tronox reported.

 

Bloomberg contributed to this report. Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

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