Judge rejects $558 million case against Cemex
by Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
In June, Texas General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner Jerry Patterson accused Cemex of trespassing on its own land by not paying the state of Texas for the removal and sale of sand and gravel by Cemex, and all of its predecessors, at its McKelligon Canyon operation in El Paso County. The GLO sought $558 million from Cemex in alleged unpaid royalties and also asked for payment of the value of the sand and gravel that had been removed.
When the case went to court in December 2009, Judge Carlos Villa ruled in favor of Cemex and against the state of Texas and the GLO. From the bench, he ruled that sand, gravel, limestone, granite, caliche, and soil are not minerals reserved to the state of Texas, and that the State cannot require Cemex to pay royalties for their removal.
“This ruling confirms our view that the suit by the State of Texas and the General Land Office is completely lacking in merit,” said Cemex USA President Gilberto Perez in a company press release.
Cemex’s evidence showed that the GLO’s allegations were contrary to Texas Supreme Court rulings and Texas Attorney General opinion. The case could potentially have an effect on other Texas landowners of mineral-classified lands. The judge’s ruling protects the rights of these surface landowners to the sand, gravel, limestone, granite, caliche, and soil on their property.
“We’re going to appeal,” GLO spokesman Jim Suydam told The Associated Press. “This is round one.”
Mining fatalities fall to an all-time low
According to recently released, preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), mine fatalities in 2009 fell to an all-time low for the second year in a row. A combined total of 34 mining deaths nationwide in 2009, only 16 of which were metal/nonmetal mines, is a significant drop from 2008’s combined total of 52 deaths.
“This decline in numbers is a testament to the commitment of miners, mine operators, MSHA, the Department of Labor, and other members of the mining community in making safety and health our top concern,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a Department of Labor news release. “At the same time, we are ever mindful that these numbers represent a tragic loss to the families and friends of the 34 victims. We will not rest until we reach zero fatalities in mining.”
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