Midwest Fertilizer Group has contracted a private firm to find out if human remains from a Native American tribe lie beneath the site of a proposed plant.
The 2.1 billion dollar nitrogen plant is anticipated to create 200 high-paying jobs.
The site in Posey County is near a Hopewell mound dating back to the first century A.D., which is why Carmel, Ind.-based Environmental Resource Management Group has started surveying the vacant plot west of Mount Vernon.
Before Midwest Fertilizer can break ground, the Department of Historic Preservation and Archeology must approve, based on the findings of the archeological survey.
State Archeologist Rick Jones works for the DHPA.
“Hypothetically, if there was a big discovery and human remains involved, they could remove remains and relocate them somewhere else," Jones said. "Another way is to leave human remains in the ground and avoid that area."
Jones said a third option would be to recruit archeologists to investigate the site and remove the remains for study.
The site is less than a mile away from a well-known Hopewell burial mound, called the Mount Vernon Mound or the "GE Mound" – it’s near the current SABIC plant, formerly GE Plastics.
Artifacts and remains from that site date back to the first century AD.
Sixty percent of the land for the fertilizer plant has been surveyed and is quote “clear for development,” ERM spokesperson Tom Rarick told WNIN last week.
The remaining 40 percent must be inspected by walking the grounds, digging in an area if remains are suspected and conducting geomorphological studies, which involves sampling and analyzing the soils.
After the firm submits its findings to the archeologists at DHPA and receives approval, the 2.1 billion dollar project can break ground as early as next spring, Rarick said. ERM's site analysis will conclude in December.
Rick Jones says the DHPA's role in overseeing the survey is to advise the ERM about the Native American Remains and Repatriation Act, which is the formal legislation that requires institutions to consult with tribes before removing objects from the site.
"Archeology rarely stops a project in any situation," Jones said. "But you can always excavate a site and then go ahead with the project."
This is an ongoing investigation, and WNIN will have more information in the days ahead.