February 2009 – State & Province News
Tilcon’s Tomkins Cove operation ceased quarrying for a seven-week period beginning in mid-December. The Journal News reports that production was halted due to a falling demand for crushed stone and asphalt, but the sales yard remains open. “This is a reflection of the significant slowdown in the construction business in the Lower Hudson Valley and New York City,” Geoff Thompson, a spokesman for Tilcon, told the newspaper. An estimated 14 miners were laid off during the shutdown. Quarrying operations also closed at Tilcon’s West Nyack site last month, but that shutdown coincided with scheduled maintenance and plant upgrades.
According to the Xenia Gazette, Cemex’s plant on Linebaugh Road temporarily laid off approximately 20 workers due to a struggling economy and lower market demand for building materials including cement. Company spokesperson Jennifer Borgen told the newspaper that the plant normally employs approximately 100 people. The company’s temporary suspension of cement production is expected to be short, and Cemex will increase production as the market and economy improves. Also, employees will be recalled as demand for their individual skills dictates. Employees were placed on “inactive status” late last year after attempts to prevent the situation through partnership with union officials gave way to economic conditions beyond the parties’ control. “We looked into ways to prevent this,” Borgen told the newspaper. “The economy was beyond our control. We tried every measure. This was not a surprise to anyone.”
The San Antonio Express-News reports that, after getting federal approval for three possible routes, Vulcan Materials Co. is assessing the best path for a new rail line to carry limestone from a quarry planned in Medina County. The permit request by Southwest Gulf Railroad, a Vulcan subsidiary, was under review by the federal Surface Transportation Board for five years before the agency authorized the rail spur to link the quarry near Quihi to existing tracks in Dunlay. A grassroots group, Medina County Environmental Action Association, opposes the project and has made numerous efforts to block it. Erik Remmert, Vulcan’s project manager, said Vulcan complied with environmental rules, plans actions to limit any flooding and harm to historic sites, and would take land by eminent domain only as “a last resort.” “We’d much prefer to work with affected property owners to reach a mutually acceptable agreement,” he told the newspaper. He predicts the quarry will create 50 new jobs.
The Virginia Department of Transportation wants to increase fees for overweight trucks to help pay for damage they inflict on highways, The Virginia-Pilot reports. A report from the Virginia Transportation Research Council at the University of Virginia estimates that heavy loads were responsible for $211.4 million in wear and tear on state bridges and roads during 2008, however trucking companies paid only $2.7 million for permits that allow them to exceed legal weight limits. Currently, most trucks that haul sand, gravel, and crushed stone are eligible for free permits if they exceed weight limits.
In an effort to stop construction of a loading dock for a gravel operation, approximately 50 protesters barricaded two roads on Maury Island. According to the Seattle Times, the group gathered at access points to a mining site owned by Glacier Northwest and formed human blockades by chaining their wrists to one another inside steel pipes anchored to oil drums filled with concrete. Although miners’ cars could not clear the barricades, workers walked past them to the site. Environmentalists have fought the mine’s expansion for more than a decade. “I’m willing to get arrested for one of the last eelgrass beds in Puget Sound,” protester Morgan Guion told the reporter.
An anti-quarry group – Friends of Rural Communities and the Environment (FORCE) – has pledged its continued opposition to a quarry near Carlisle, Ontario. “We are determined to show the depth of the community’s opposition to this quarry, and we will use any means to keep the project from occurring,” threatened the group’s chairman, Graham Flint, during an interview with Ontario Farmer. St. Mary’s Cement Inc. is in the process of obtaining permits to mine limestone at its site. To date, it has committed to using best management practices to reduce noise and vibrations, watering unpaved roads and sweeping paved ones, implementing a strict trucking policy to ensure safe driving speeds, following groundwater monitoring procedures, and training its workforce in established policies.
On New Year’s Day, a 60-meter cement barge ran aground near Oak Bay, British Columbia. According to Oak Bay News, high winds may have been a factor in the incident involving the Lafarge ship. Efforts to free the barge were successful several days later after its cement load was pumped into another barge that pulled alongside it. The barge was then towed to Esquimalt by two tugs where it remained for several days. Transport Canada officials said the barge’s owners were taking appropriate action to remove it.
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