Mining the “Blue Economy”

Dow has a long history of appreciating the ocean as a precious resource – from the Company’s early work in extracting magnesium from seawater to desalination efforts in the 1960s. Today Dow is committed to finding science-based solutions to reduce plastic waste in oceans.

More Valuable Than Pirate Treasure

H.H. Dow had dreamed of using the ocean as a mine since 1924, but it wasn’t until January 21, 1941, that it became a reality. That was the date the first ingot of magnesium made from seawater was poured in Freeport, Texas – and the first time man had successfully mined the ocean for metal. The new plant almost immediately began making a major contribution to the Allied War Effort and the production of lightweight aircraft. Later named DOWMETAL, Dow’s magnesium became an important product for everyday uses in automobiles, tools and toys.

In 1941, Dow began “mining” a new silvery-white treasure from the sea: the desperately needed magnesium for building airplanes.
Vintage pirate treasure/magnesium ad – August 1941

With a Push of the Button

When Dow’s first desalination plant in Freeport, Texas, was activated in 1961, President John F. Kennedy said of the accomplishment, “This is a work which in many ways is more important than any other scientific enterprise in which this country is now engaged.” Since then, Dow has continued to produce elements that make desalination more efficient and affordable. With Dow’s technology, projects in water-scarce areas from the Middle East to California to Australia are now providing residents with affordable fresh drinking water from the sea. It’s been a tall glass to fill, but we’re doing it.

On June 21, 1961, President Kennedy flipped a switch in the White House and sent an impulse to Freeport, Texas, that started a stream of fresh water spouting from the sea. JFK is pictured with Dow President Leland Doan (right) and A.P. Beutel, head of the Texas Division.
Photo courtesy of Science History Institute.

Stemming the Tide

To help stem the tide of waste than flows into the ocean, Dow has pledged $2.8 million toward collaborative efforts to reduce marine debris. The Company also became a founding member of the Trash Free Seas Alliance, a global initiative led by the Ocean Conservancy to develop land-based solutions to prevent waste from entering the ocean seas. As part of these efforts, Dow is participating in initiatives in Asia to track and stem the flow of waste. For example, Dow is working with the Indonesian government and other partners to help turn plastic waste into sustainable roads – paving the way to a more sustainable future.