Between a Hard Place and a Rock
It is important to note, however, that 21.8 percent of producers in that largest category also did claim to have reserves of more than 100 million tons, leaving them well positioned for future production.
In terms of regional disparity, 54.4 percent of producers in the Northeast reported having less than 5 million tons of permitted reserves, followed by the West (45.3 percent), the North Central (34.5 percent), and the South (28.1 percent). In contrast, 8.4 percent of producers in the North Central region reported more than 100 million tons of reserves, followed by the South (7.8 percent), the Northeast (7.6 percent), and the West (7.5 percent).
Looking at reserves as a company-wide issue, slightly less than half of respondents (48.9 percent) reported having corporate reserves of less than 10 million tons. The next largest category was 10 to 50 million tons of reserves with 23.4 percent of respondents. In contrast, 8.0 percent indicated they had 51 million to 100 million tons, 10.6 percent claimed 101 million to 500 million tons, 3.4 percent noted 501 million to 1 billion tons, and 5.7 percent topped the stockpile with more than 1 billion tons of reserves.
As anticipated, smaller annual tonnage operations tended to indicate they had fewer tons of reserves while larger annual tonnage operations were more likely to indicate higher tonnages. On a regional basis, the Northeast had the highest percentage of producers (65.7 percent) with less than 10 million tons of reserves while 13.3 percent of producers in the South claimed more than 1 billion tons.
Red light, green light
Of the producers who responded to our survey, 38 percent were actively seeking a permit. The larger the annual production, the more likely it seemed that the producer was involved in a current permit: 57.0 percent of those with production rates of more than 1.6 million tons per year were seeking permits compared to 44.9 percent of sites with 750,001 million to 1.5 million tons, 39.6 percent at sites with 250,001 million to 750,000 million tons, and 20.9 percent at sites producing fewer than 250,000 tons per year. In addition, those in the South (48.0 percent) and West (47.7 percent) were the most likely to be involved in a permitting effort.
When it comes to timeliness, small producers (less than 250,000 tons per year) experienced both extremes in obtaining permits. While 34.8 percent were able to secure permits in less than six months, 10.9 percent had been working on a permit for more than a decade. In contrast, large producers (more than 1.6 million tons per year) seemed to have the swiftest turnarounds; 83.6 percent were able to obtain permits within three years. Producers in the West also faced long waits with 14.5 percent saying they had been working on their current permit for more than 10 years. Meanwhile, those in the North Central and South seemed to be in relatively good shape – 37.5 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively, had obtained a permit within the last year.
One of the biggest surprises outlined in the survey came in the area of cost; 74.1 percent of respondents said they invested less than $100,000 in their last permitting effort. The large number of small, independent producers responding to the survey may have influenced this number. In addition, 89.8 percent of those in the smallest production category (less than 250,000 tons per year) and 88.9 percent of those who only produced sand and gravel indicated they were part of this spending category. In contrast, 9.9 percent of respondents in the West and 12.7 percent of those producing more than 750,000 tons per year indicated that they spent $1 million to $3 million to get their most recent permit.
Fact vs. fiction
While the results of the Aggregates Manager Permitting Survey confirmed some urban legends such as the shortage of aggregate reserves, they dispelled others related to the cost of permits. That said, there are still plenty of industry tales of woe related to permitting, and those cases will continue to underscore the importance of proactive public relations and education efforts.