Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) has broken ground on a Lee County, Iowa greenfeild nitrogen production facility and had anticipated going operational sometime in the summer of 2015. That has all changed as workers at the site have uncovered archaeological artifacts that have skidded progress to a halt.
No human or animal remains have been found on the site as of yet, but if the site is significant, it may qualify for the National Register for Historic Places. That would force OCI to pay for a 'full-blown excavation' before building on the land. The company had shopped all over the Midwest for a location to build the complex, first looking at a Scott County, Iowa location and then a spot near Peoria, Illinois before settling south of Burlington, Iowa.
Controversy has been in the mix since the start. The project began with a generous tax incentive package that adds up to $130 million and includes 2008 disaster relief funds. That had some Iowans wondering if the Governor wasn't 'giving away the farm' to welcome OCI to Iowa. Environmental concerns have been raised from watchdog groups along with the usual menagerie of complaints about foreign investment on domestic soil...
Then word arrived that OCI had been named in a 2004 lawsuit alleging the company had hidden its identity as a foreign entity to receive funding for another project in Virginia to the tune of $332 million. Click here for more...
OCI is reported to be working cooperatively with officials in Iowa and has hired a private firm to conduct an investigation in concert with the State Archaeologist's office which notes it is too soon to say if the site has archaeological significance. So far, the artifacts that have been recovered include arrow points and pottery shards. But enough historical material has been unearthed to warrant a closer look.
So rather than construction workers in hard hats and sunburns, the Lee County site may be excavated by archaeologists. Progress is expected to slow if not come to a complete standstill until historians have a chance to dig a little deeper.
Photo credit: Wessex Archaeology / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA