A sand mine in a small west coast of Scotland village has re-opened and aims to export up to 100,000 tonnes of sand a year.
Lochaline Quartz Sand, a joint venture between Italian mining company Gruppo Minerali Maffei (GMM) and the global glass manufacturer Pilkington opened the mine last week.
The investment is creating 11 jobs in a rural community which has a population of approximately 300. The sandmine has lain dormant since the previous operator closed it at the end of 2008.
Pilkington has previously sourced specialist sand from Egypt and Europe for its UK operations.
It has now agreed a 10-year supply contract for low-iron silica sand to produce Pilkington Optiwhite- low-iron glass for building and solar cell applications, securing the long term future of the Lochaline mine.
It is understood the material will be shipped to Pilkington's site in Merseyside, UK with around 40 annual deliveries expected.
The Lochaline mine covers 370 acres, accessed by around 48 kilometres of tunnels, with its sand said to be among the highest quality available in the UK.
The mine was opened in 1940 due to the demand for optical glass for military instruments and gun sights.
Project manager, Daniele Trogolo said: "Due to its distinct geological setting the mine produces very nice sand. The mine and the plant are being refurbished and high investments for new equipment are taking place. This project proves that with business partners and workers from different countries it is possible that even in a time of European crisis we can move forward."
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is supporting the investment with a grant of £155,000 to allow the business to upgrade and renew equipment. HIE is also providing support towards workforce training.