Our People

Our People: Making Us Productive

Our people: Making Us Productive
Our people: making us productive

SIM is a new company that has had the advantage of investing in the latest and safest technologies to produce valuable mineral sands. Our success during the short time in which we have been in business is due not only to advanced technology but to the men and women who come to work at SIM every day. They are mill operators, heavy equipment drivers, process engineers, geologists, lab analysts, and administrative staff. Their initiative is the reason we have been able to grow in a few short years and will continue to expand our operations.

President and CEO, Southern Ionics Inc.

Milton Sundbeck

The founder and CEO of SIM’s parent company, Milton Sundbeck is a chemist, entrepreneur and successful business manager. Since he founded Southern Ionics Incorporated in Mobile, Ala. in 1980, the specialty inorganic chemicals manufacturer has grown its U.S. operations and expanded its customer base around the world. Southern Ionics’ products are based on aluminum, magnesium, sulfur, ammonia and zirconium chemistry. The company sells more than $200 million annually of products that are used to refine diesel and gasoline, manufacture paper, paint, soap, purify water and control emissions from power and industrial furnaces. Headquartered in West Point, Miss., Southern Ionics employs more than 280 people at its 10 manufacturing facilities in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Maryland. The company also operates a chemical research and development facility in Northeast Mississippi.

SIM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Ionics Incorporated.

A native of Austin, Texas, Milton received his chemistry education at the University of Texas. Prior to starting Southern Ionics, he worked for Hercules, Inc. and American Cynamid.

President, SIM

Stuart Forrester

Stuart joined SIM as President in April 2017.

Stuart previously worked for Iluka Resources Limited both in Australia and the U.S. He held various roles including Projects Manager, Operations Manager and U.S. Regional Manager. Prior to Iluka, Stuart worked for Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore division in engineering, project and operational roles.

During his time in Western Australia, Stuart held the positions of Chairperson for SHINE a non- profit education-based program for at risk students and Chairperson for the Midwest Chamber of Minerals Energy Regional Council.

Stuart has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

In 2014, he was recognized as the “Champion of Women in Resources” in Australia and in 2015 was nominated for Western Australia’s 40under40 award.

Mine Manager

Pete Cohee

As the Mine Manager of SIM’s Mission Mine in Nahunta, Ga., Pete manages approximately 70 people who help produce 3.7 million tons of ore per year.

An 18-year veteran of the mining industry, Pete filled various roles prior to joining SIM. Beginning in 2001 he was the drill rig geologist at two sites in Florida: the Dupont (Chemours) site in Starke and Iluka’s Green Cove Springs operation. He went on to serve as mine geologist, mine project manager and mining superintendent at Iluka’s Green Cove Springs mine, and as exploration geologist for Iluka’s U.S. exploration team. More recently, Pete consulted with SFS, an earth moving company and mining contractor, on a mine reclamation project and new business development, including a lime rock mine in Reddick, Fla. and a Fuller’s Earth mine in Thomas County, Ga. Pete has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geologic Sciences from Salem State University.

Sales and Marketing Manager

Jason Geiger

Jason is responsible for sales and marketing of all SIM products globally. Before joining the company in May 2014, Jason worked for lluka Resources as the sales manager for North and South America. During his 12 years with Iluka, Jason received hands-on mining experience in the company’s exploration department. He has a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a Master of Business Administration in International Business.

Safety Manager

Mark Klinepeter

A safety professional with 20 years of experience in occupational safety and health management, Mark designs, directs and implements SIM’s safety and health program and oversees employee safety training. He joined SIM in 2013, bringing more than 32 years of mining industry experience. Mark was corporate safety director with Florida Rock Industries from 1997 until the company’s acquisition by Vulcan Materials Company in November 2007. At the new company, he successfully oversaw the integration of safety, health and risk processes, post-acquisition.

Mark has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and is a Certified Mine Safety Professional (International Society of Mine Safety Professionals), Mine Safety & Health Administration certified trainer, and Radiation Safety Officer.

Technical Manager

Tim McKeon

Tim provides technical expertise to SIM’s Mineral Sands facility — a dry mill that has operated in Offerman, Ga. since 2015. As the site manager during the final phase of the mill’s design and outset of construction, Tim knows every aspect of the mill’s infrastructure and operations. His top priority is to ensure the safety of the mill’s 42 employees.

Tim gained his mining and minerals processing expertise working for major producers including DuPont (where his innovation in recovery circuitry received a patent and won the DuPont Engineering Excellence award in 2005), MCI, Pittston Coal and Massey Energy.

Tim graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering in 1998, and a Master of Science in Mineral Processing with an emphasis in linear programming in 2001 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Finance Manager

Emily Ratchford

Emily brings 25 years of professional accounting experience to her job as SIM’s Finance Manager. She joined the company in 2014. Prior to her position with SIM, she served as the Director of Finance/IT for Sunoptic Technologies, a global leader in fiber optics. Through her work in many industries, Emily gained a strong background in cost accounting, manufacturing, IT systems and analytics. She has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business from Elon University and is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants.

Manager of Environmental Stewardship

Jim Renner

Jim is a geologist and environmental planner with 30 years of experience in natural resource management. He joined SIM in 2012 after consulting for the company on environmental issues. Jim is responsible for incorporating SIM’s commitment to environmental stewardship into mine planning and operations, complying with environmental regulations, and engaging with stakeholders to understand and address community concerns.

Prior to joining SIM, Jim was a principal with Golder Associates, where he led a global consulting practice in environmental impact assessment and permitting, water supply, and industrial minerals. Jim also led the company’s internal and external efforts to implement sustainable business practices.

Jim has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geology from the University of Georgia. He is a Professional Geologist (Georgia) and Professional Wetland Scientist.

Business Development Manager

David Settles

David is responsible for capital and business development projects for SIM. He brings to the company the benefit of 16 years of diverse experience in mining and minerals management. Before joining SIM in October of 2012, David worked for three years as mineral resources manager for Rayonier, Inc. His responsibilities included the development and management of a minerals portfolio across 2.4 million acres of U.S. timberland. Prior to his Rayonier assignment, David worked as a geologist and project manager for Vulcan Materials Company. There he spent seven years prospecting and developing mines in the Southeast U.S. and Bahamas. David is a registered professional geologist with a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Tennessee.

Senior Advisor, External Affairs

Lindsay Thomas

The former U.S. Congressman and native of Screven, Georgia, directs SIM’s important work with federal, state and local governments, and with policy, economic and nonprofit organizations that are vital to the company and to the region. Lindsay brings his leadership experience as former Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations for AGL Resources and as President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to help SIM shape its national and statewide presence.

As SIM moves into a global marketplace, the company benefits from Lindsay’s international expertise gained through his tenure as a top executive for the Atlanta Committee for Olympic Games, held in Atlanta in 1996.

While a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 until 1993, Lindsay represented Georgia’s first congressional district that comprises coastal Georgia and much of Southeast Georgia. He was appointed to the influential House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittees on Energy and Water and on Military Construction. While in Washington, Lindsay chaired the Sunbelt Caucus and the Wetlands Task Force. He co-founded the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

In addition to Lindsay’s political and business leadership roles, he has served as a negotiator on significant matters of policy. He was appointed Federal Commissioner for the Tri State Water Compacts by President Bill Clinton and served in that capacity from 1998 until 2002, addressing disagreements on water usage between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

He contributes his time to a number of boards including the Altamaha River Basin, University of Georgia Press, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, International Conservation Caucus Foundation and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Human Resources Manager

Donna Pinter

As the human resources manager, Donna has overall responsibility for the HR management including employee relations, strategic recruiting, compensation, benefits, engagement, training and payroll for all of Southern Ionics Minerals locations and employees.

Donna joined SIM in September 2018 after 19 years in the food manufacturing sector where she was responsible for the human resources oversight of 325 employees. Her experience includes recruitment, talent management, succession planning, human safety, site security, workers’ compensation, social and ethical compliance, benefits and compensation.

Donna earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from Baker College, is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) through the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) through the Society of Human Resources Management.

New Eyes In The Sky

New Eyes In The Sky

If you notice an unmanned aircraft (better known as a “drone”) hovering over
SIM’s mine, Chris Coger or Thomas Fazio are probably nearby.
The newly minted “Remote Pilots” received Federal Aviation Authority certificates
that will let them apply the new technology to more efficient mining surveys and
land management. Chris is a surveyor at SIM’s Mission Mine. Thomas is an Environmental Technician.

Stuart Forrester Leads SIM Growth

Stuart Forrester, president of SIM, at Mineral Sand Plant
Stuart Forrester, president of SIM, at Mineral Sand Plant

South Georgia is worlds away from Western Australia—more than 11,000 miles across the vast Pacific Ocean. Yet the rich natural resources of South Georgia with its agriculture and rural lifestyle, remind Stuart Forrester of his origins.

The President of Southern Ionics Minerals LLC (SIM) says he “grew up in a town that was very much like Offerman or Blackshear, except for the accents. That’s why I feel at home in southeast Georgia. The people here are hard-working, respectful, friendly and have a love for the land, just like those living in rural Western Australia.”

Forrester, who brings 15 years of experience working in the mining industry, most recently for Iluka Resources in Virginia, says another common characteristic of the two regions is an appreciation of and reliance on natural resources. “Many of the people in my home town made their living off the land, whether by farming or mining. This instills a deep respect for our lands. It’s the same here in Charlton, Brantley and Pierce counties. We depend on the land for our livelihoods, and we are responsible for taking care of it.”

One of the first decisions Stuart Forrester made after assuming his new role was to move the company’s headquarters from Jacksonville, Fla. to Offerman, Ga., in rural Pierce County. This signals a greater presence for the mineral sands company in South Georgia, with increased mineral development and associated economic development opportunities for the region.

Forrester’s young family joins him as a new resident of South Georgia, where he sees unlimited prospects for bringing longer-term prosperity to local communities.

“We have an outstanding team of people working for SIM, and we intend to grow our workforce while increasing purchases from local vendors and suppliers. The local communities have been very supportive, and we certainly intend to continue giving back,” he said.

SIM expects to increase the percentage of its goods and services sourced from Georgia-based businesses to more than the current 56%. Currently, SIM directly employs approximately 140 people.

Among his short-term priorities will be guiding the opening of a new mine north of the existing Mission Mine.

Additionally, the company is investigating other potential mining locations. “The mineral sand deposits of southeast Georgia constitute a world-class resource. The deposits are well-known, but we have to conduct extensive evaluation and environmental assessment to determine which ones can be economically developed,” said Forrester.

Southern Ionics Minerals began mining mineral sand deposits in 2014. Its facilities include an administrative office in Jacksonville, a mining office in Brantley County, the Mission South Mine in Charlton County, and a processing plant in Pierce County. Sand extracted at the mine is transported to the plant where titanium and zirconium mineral sands are sold to companies that manufacture pigments and paints, aircraft engines, medical devices, welding rods, and other products.