February 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) authorized a six-month study of quarries and how they affect state residents. According to the Huntsville Times, Dr. Kathleen Felker, a member of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission who has “doggedly pursued the quarry issue,” spearheaded the vote for a study. Trey Glenn, ADEM executive director, told the newspaper that a preliminary review of quarries showed no significant problems. Glenn and Felker are touring quarries around the state, with Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Co. assisting in arranging tours of its operations. The results of the study are expected to be reported at an ADEM meeting on April 17.
Nearly a year after a Merced County judge ruled that Modesto-based Black Diamond Aggregates Inc. shouldn’t be allowed to mine without a detailed environmental impact study, the company has been forced to shut down. The Merced Sun reports that, without permission to mine below ground, the company couldn’t continue operations. Previously, the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved its plans, but two environmental groups – the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water – quickly filed suit against the county for its decision. A county judge sided with the environmental groups last February, but waited until November to formally order the company to stop digging until it completes environmental studies and receives new approvals from the county.
On Dec. 30, a miner was seriously injured at Coots Material Inc.’s site in Mount Pleasant when he was caught under a piece of equipment. According to The Hawk Eye, employees at the site cut a conveyor belt to free the worker who was trapped under the machine. Crews started CPR after discovering he was not breathing. He was initially taken to Henry County Health Center and later airlifted to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
Six miners were sent to the hospital for treatment following an accident at Holcim (US) Inc.’s Hagerstown cement plant. The Herald-Mail reports that three miners were working near a main door to a storage silo that contained limestone dust. When they opened the door, limestone dust poured out and covered them, burying one up to his neck. Three additional workers pulled them to safety. All were taken to Washington County Hospital and suffered from labored breathing due to inhalation of limestone dust. A spokesperson for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) told the newspaper that the agency was investigating the incident and that section of the plant would reopen at the discretion of MSHA officials.
Aggregate Industries has approached the Sutton Board of Selectmen with an offer to purchase its 24.3-acre gravel pit for $1.7 million. Sand from the town-owned pit is used to treat roads during winter months. According to the Telegram & Gazette, township officials estimate that if the land is sold, they may pay an additional $30,000 to $50,000 per year for winter road maintenance. The board chairman said the sale would hinge on the passage of a home rule petition to allow half of the proceeds to be placed into a new stabilization fund with interest from the fund being applied toward the annual material costs for the highway department.
A 64-acre sand and gravel mine could be reopened, The Country Messenger reports. Tiller Corp., which operates a 359-acre gravel mine in Scandia, has proposed another mine on 114-acres of land in the community. According to documents submitted to the city of Scandia, the property was mined sporadically from the mid-’60s through the ’80s, but was not properly reclaimed. The newspaper reported that one of the benefits of additional mining would be proper reclamation at the end of the mining life cycle.
Lafarge’s bid to open an underground limestone mine in Sugar Creek hit a snag when the city’s planning and zoning commission recommended against the approval of its mining application. The Kansas City Star reports that the request now heads to the city’s Board of Alderman, where three aldermen voted against a similar proposal in 2007. Lafarge representatives say they have proposed a mining operation that would provide material for the local construction market, make efficient use of already existing mining infrastructure, and create potential revenue-producing underground storage. Mayor Stan Salva noted the additional taxes created by the proposal would provide much-needed revenue for the city.
Following lawsuits, emergency interim zoning issues, and court-ordered mediation, the Gallatin County Commission signed settlements with two aggregate producers, Cameron Springs, LLC and Spanish Peaks Sand and Gravel. According to The Belgrade News, operating conditions in the settlements are very similar to those adopted via the interim zoning and address issues such as ground water, noise, dust, and operating hours. An agreement could not be reached with a third operation, the Churchill-area NOG pit. That case will be heard in a Gallatin District Court.