Whitest Elephant

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Since war's end, no one had known what to do with Basic Magnesium, the world's biggest magnesium plant. Built in 1941 in the desert in Nevada between Boulder City and Las Vegas, Basic had cost the Government $140 million, and it had its own town, named Henderson, of 1,000 houses. Only the Geneva steel plant ($200 million) and the Big and Little Big Inch pipelines ($146 million) had cost more. Incendiary bombs made from Basic's magnesium had helped raze Tokyo. But in peacetime, the War Assets Administration found it the whitest of elephants.

The State of Nevada, which had a big stake in Basic's future (Henderson is Nevada's third biggest town), thought the elephant could be put to work. So last week, for the sum of $1 down and the promise of $24 million over a 20-year period, Nevada bought Basic from WAA.

Some 20% of the plant's space is already rented by 38 lessees, chiefly for storage. Nevada thinks the plant could provide the foundation for big scale electro-chemical and electro-metallurgical manufacturing, e.g,, anything from dynamite to paint. At week's end, Nevada's Senator Patrick A. McCarran was trying to interest Du Pont and Alcoa.