Valley business is Washington State’s leading supplier of silica sand products
By Phyllis D. Slayton, Reporter
As you drive down Highway 231 north and see Valley just ahead, you will notice some rather pristine mountains of golden sand across from Valley School. This impressive silica sand processing plant is the Lane Mountain Company, which was established in 1959 to provide sand for the growing glass market.
With the discovery of silica sand on Lane Mountain above Waitts Lake in the 1950s, and with the establishment of the rail system that goes through Valley, production eventually began in 1961. Lane Mountain Company has since become a landmark in Valley, Washington. In 1983, it was handed down from grandfather to father to four sons and named Hemphill Brothers, Inc., a fourth-generation family business with a long history of providing raw minerals including limestone, silica, and feldspar.
More than 300,000 tons of silica are produced annually and shipped to many locations in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. “We have even shipped to Hawaii for golf-course sand traps, which may seem strange with all their sand,” company President Luke Hemphill said with a laugh.
Trucks haul silica rock and sand from quarries up at Lane Mountain (above Waitts Lake). Two quarries exist at that location, with the north quarry mined for 50 years and the south quarry mined since 1978. Silica is delivered to the plant on Highway 231 where it is washed and screened in ponds to remove impurities such as iron and clay to become ready for production. During the process, the material turns from rust color to white sand.
Currently there are about 45 employees at Lane Mountain from Valley and surrounding areas. Several generations of Valley families have worked at the Lane Mountain Company, including the Scates and Lane families. Joe H. Scates Sr., who recently passed, was the plant manager, working for Lane Mountain for over 55 years. While speaking of the company’s many dedicated employees, Hemphill proudly stated, “We are truly blessed to have generations of employees from the Valley area who are experienced and sustain a good work ethic. They have made our successful company what it is today.”
As testament to the work ethic of Lane Mountain Company, their silica has the highest purity of 99% and is Washington State’s leading supplier of silica sand products. Glass windows, roofing shingles, insulation, mortar, grout, and fiber cement siding are all products produced from the Lane Mountain Company silica. Other applications for silica sand include water filtration, geothermal energy production, metal casting, railroad traction, and a variety of recreational and agricultural projects. Hemphill Brothers, Inc., also has a small limestone operation at Northport. “Our sand is also used for horse arenas and beach volleyball courts, for example Brown’s Park in Spokane,” Hemphill said.
When asked what he likes about the Valley area, Hemphill stated, “We love the area, the people are great, and we are privileged to do business for so long sustainably with a solid market and solid employees. We are blessed and happy to engage in many ways with the community through school drives, sports teams, food pantries, and supporting the community any way we can is important to us.”
To learn more about Lane Mountain Company, visit https://www.lanemt.com/