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A bentonite mining firm that operates near Belle Fourche has signed a merger agreement with the French company Imerys.

Amcol, also known as American Colloid, stated in a federal filing on Feb. 14 that it had received an unsolicited letter from Mineral Technologies, Inc., with a proposal to purchase its outstanding shares of stock for $42 per share.

An Amcol representative at its Hoffman Estates, Ill., headquarters confirmed the SEC filings have been made regarding the proposal, but declined to comment further. No dates for the transaction were in federal filing exhibits.

Amcol has done bentonite mining and processing since 1927 in Belle Fourche. As the company grew and the types of products using bentonite increased, it expanded to processing at Colony, Wyo.

Estimates are that more than 60 percent of cat litter used in the North American marketplace come from the Colony plant. Ring Container, a plastic bottle manufacturer, moved a factory to Belle Fourche to provide plastic containers for cat litter and potentially other products.

It currently has bentonite-based products that include metalcasting, pet products, oil and gas well drilling, industrial specialties and agriculture. It has operations in Australia, India, China, Mexico, Thailand, Egypt, Japan and Korea.

The company is one of two in the area that are major customers of rail transportation on the former DM&E line. That line is under consideration for purchase from the Canadian Pacific by the Genesee and Wyoming short line operating firm.

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Amcol is listed on the New York Stock Exchange with revenue over $1 billion in 2013.

Imersys is a worldwide mineral-based firm with a 3.9 billion Euro (about $5.3 billion U.S. dollars) revenue and 15,800 employees in 2013.

The purchase technically is an offer by Imersys Minerals Delaware, which is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Imersys SA, a French corporation.

The French firm in U.S. Federal Securities and Exchange Commission filings included a transcript calling the bid for Amcol a "friendly takeover."

They also refer to Amcol as "the world leader in bentonite."

If the takeover continues, it would give Imersys a leading position in bentonite, which it has not been involved with beyond a marginal interest, according to the company.

Gilles Michel, chairman and chief executive officer of Imerys SA, said of Amcol in the SEC filings exhibit: "And this is the leader in bentonite that actually holds the major reserves of bentonite not only big in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality."

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