Komatsu confirms Solvay Coke site announcement

Walker, Barrett to participate in event Thursday morning

View of the Solvay Coke site.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:49 pm

Komatsu Mining Corp. will announce a project at the former Solvay Coke site in Milwaukee’s Harbor District on Thursday, a company spokeswoman confirmed.

The Solvay Coke site as seen from South Kinnickinnic Avenue.

The announcement will include Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker’s office issued a media advisory for the event Wednesday afternoon. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce also circulated an invitation to the event, describing it as “an exciting announcement, detailing significant capital investment and jobs expansion for a long-time Milwaukee manufacturer.”

“This major development in Milwaukee’s Harbor District signals a commitment to both the company’s long-term growth plans in the city and to renewing an area ripe for re-development,” the invitation said.

Caley Clinton, Komatsu marketing communications and PR manager, confirmed in an email the company will be part of the announcement.

Komatsu America Corp., the Rolling Meadows, Illinois-based subsidiary of Japan-based heavy equipment maker Komatsu Ltd., bought Milwaukee-based mining equipment maker Joy Global Inc. in 2017 for $3.7 billion. Joy was then rebranded as Komatsu Mining Corp.

The Solvay Coke site is not far from where Pawling & Harnischfeger got its start in Walker’s Point, including a machine shop built in 1886 near South First and East Oregon streets, according to a Wisconsin Historical Society photo. Alonzo Pawling also launched his Milwaukee Tool and Pattern Shop at 292 Florida St. in 1883, according to a company history.

P&H eventually became the surface mining segment of Harnischfeger Industries Inc., which rebranded as Joy Global in 2001 after emerging from bankruptcy.

Overhead of the Solvay Coke site. Photo by Google.

The Solvay Coke site is a 47-acre property along the west side of the Kinnickinnic River, south of Greenfield Avenue, that was first developed in 1902 for manufacturing metallurgical coke for use in the production of steel, foundry coke, coal gas and coal tar, according to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee historical archives.

The site has been vacant for years and was heavily contaminated. At one point a Minnesota developer floated plans for an outlandish $1.5 billion, mixed-use development at the site, but those plans never materialized and the developer went into bankruptcy.

Wisconsin Gas LLC, a predecessor company to WEC Energy Group Inc. ultimately purchased the property out of bankruptcy last year. We Energies, along with East Greenfield Investors LLC, American Natural Resources Co., Cliffs Mining Co. and Maxus Energy Corp., were all deemed as potentially responsible parties for environmental contamination at the site. Work to clean up the site has been ongoing for years.

Ohio-based Cliffs Mining is currently suing We Energies, alleging the company has broken a 2007 agreement that called for the responsible parties to work together to respond to Environmental Protection Agency claims regarding the site and to share certain costs.

We Energies is seeking to have the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin, dismissed.

Brian Manthey, WEC Energy Group director of corporate communications, said the lawsuit is separate from any project at the site.

“We do not expect the lawsuit to represent any challenges to us in connection with the sale or redevelopment of the site,” he said in an email.


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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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