TOWANDA - U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey toured the Global Tungsten & Powders plant in Towanda on Tuesday after having successfully worked this spring to free up part of the government's stockpile of tungsten ore concentrate so that it can be sold to businesses such as GTP.

Tungsten ore is of "vital" importance to GTP, Toomey said.

For years, the Defense Logistics Agency, which is part of the Department of Defense, had sold tungsten ore concentrate to businesses.

However, the latest sale, which was to have taken place in March or April, did not take place, as the government had suspended at that time its sale of its ore, said Stacey Garrity, director of sales and marketing for GTP.

At the request of GTP, Toomey successfully worked to get the government to reverse its decision, and last month the Defense Logistics Agency announced that it was again offering to sell part of its stockpile of the ore to businesses, Garrity said.

The ore is used as a feedstock for many of GTP's most important products, including powders and defense products, she said.

While GTP purchases tungsten ore concentrate directly from six mines, the supply it receives from the government is critical to the Towanda plant, Garrity said.

She said that if the government supply had not become available again, GTP would have lost $40 million this year and would have had to lay off a number of workers. She said it would be difficult to determine how many workers would have had to be laid off.

Debbie West, the GTP plant manager for refractory and specialty powders and defense, said she thought the sale had been suspended because it conflicted with a government policy.

"Sometimes (government) loses sight of the consequences" of its actions, said Toomey (R-Pa.)

GTP officials said the government will still have enough tungsten ore concentrate to meet the security needs of the country.

At the end of his tour of the GTP plant, Toomey said there was some "very amazing ... technology" at the plant.

Besides the GTP plant, Toomey on Tuesday also toured the Holcomb Group's operation in a county-owned building in Mildred, which is the largest employer in Sullivan County.

Rebecca Neal, Toomey's press secretary, said she did not know if any other senators besides Toomey had worked for the resumption of the sale of government-owned tungsten ore. However, she said if there were other senators involved, it wouldn't have been a large number of them.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.