Japan Earthquake:  Xirallic paint pigment production in Japan resumed image

The Japan-based plant that was the sole provider of a glittery paint pigment for the global auto industry – Xirallic – has reopened nearly two months after an earthquake savaged northern Japan and stopped operations.

The recovery and repair work, which began on April 4, has been completed ahead of schedule. At the same time, exceptional progress has been made in restoring the external infrastructure. Merck expects the plant will achieve its regular production output in June.

The company is also looking to make the pigment at a second plant in Germany. It plans to add capacity at the German plant by the end of 2011, which will “considerably” boost future supply reliability of Xirallic pigment in 2012.

“Our top priority is to ensure as soon as possible an uninterrupted supply of Xirallic pigments to our customers around the world,” Peter Halas, head of Merck’s pigments and cosmetics businessunit, said in a statement. “The resumption of production in Onahama is a major milestone toward this objective.”

Merck says that the Onahama facility, which is 36 miles south of the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, is outside of the evacuation area, and the company will adhere to public directives to ensure the safety of employees. The company is also testing products from the plant to comply with safety standards.