June 2008 – State & Province News
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported that a 36-year-old maintenance worker was killed following serious injuries sustained in a Jan. 25 incident when the man was hit on the head with a pry bar that fell from an 80-foot-high elevated work platform. Jeffrey King was wearing a hard hat at the time of the accident, but was bent over shoveling. The pry bar struck him behind the hard hat. MSHA reported that the accident, which took place at a surface mine in Bonne Terre, occurred because management policies and work procedures failed to ensure that the work platform was maintained in a clean condition.
Approximately 30 people attended a public meeting held by Albuquerque-based Rockology, Inc., to discuss its plans to mine a 50-acre site near La Bajada Mesa. According to the Albuquerque Journal, residents did not mince words in expressing their resistance to the project. Last year, county commissioners instituted a year-long ban on drilling activities. That moratorium followed a drilling request from an oil and gas company. Rockology’s proposal calls for excavating approximately 20 feet of material and reclaiming the area with unused topsoil. At peak production, the company estimates 60 trucks hauling material from the site each day.
The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that Aggregate Industries and G Avenue Properties are seeking more than $10 million in damages from Oshtemo Township in a lawsuit that claims the township is preventing trucks from accessing its property in neighboring Alamo Township. In February, the Oshtemo Township Board of Trustees unanimously voted to reject Aggregate Industries’ request to amend the township’s ordinance to permit gravel trucks to travel on 10th Street. The lawsuit requests that a judge either invalidate the ordinance or require the township to pay the compensation. The two companies also requested that Oshtemo Township be kept from interfering with the future mining operation or its trucks. Township officials accused Aggregate Industries’ “rush to litigate” and claimed the company refused to explore alternate options. An attorney for the producer responded that the township has denied all access to the property and that it has attempted to work with the township. A group of residents in the two townships has challenged the mining operation for more than a year.
Michael P. Millican, a 43-year-old truck driver, was killed on Jan. 26 when he was struck by a haul truck, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reports. The accident took place in an underground gold mine in Golconda. Millican parked his truck in an intersection near the loading area and left. Shortly afterward, another miner got in the parked truck to move it out of the way. While backing up the truck, it struck Millican as he was returning to his vehicle. MSHA says the accident occurred because management procedures and controls were inadequate. Those measures should have ensured that equipment operators sounded a warning or used other effective means to warn persons who could be exposed to a hazard from the equipment.
Neighbors of Thibeault Corp.’s proposed aggregates operation in Raymond say they plan to appeal the town’s decision to permit the site because a handful of them were not properly notified of the company’s plans. The Union Leader reports that the town originally considered a portion of the company’s proposal in 2005 and subsequently approved a two-year extension. Thibeault is currently seeking permission for processing material at the site, but that request has not yet been addressed. In addition to their concerns about notification, neighbors also claim that because no work has been performed on the site it has been abandoned. A representative for the company told the newspaper that it does have plans to extract gravel from the site for use in area construction projects.
Town officials in Nassau adopted a new zoning law that includes a ban on commercial mining that they hope has firmer legal footing than a previous attempt. The Times Union reports that the town board passed the comprehensive plan unanimously. It is the culmination of a process that the town began in 2000 and was stalled until 2006 when a series of legal battles erupted over the legislation. The new law covers mining, but also includes procedural updates to streamline the regulatory process, an outline for an Aquifer Protection Overlay District, agricultural protections, rules governing subdivision development, protections for open spaces, and regulations for wind farms. The previous law was thrown out by a judge who ruled that elected officials erroneously dismissed petitions from those objecting to it. An attorney for Troy Sand and Gravel — one of two companies seeking to locate aggregates operations in the community — told the newspaper that the state’s overriding authority under current mining laws supersedes local laws.
A state panel is expected to recommend two courses of action to remedy North Carolina’s transportation funding shortfall: ending an annual transfer of highway dollars to other uses and supporting an infrastructure investment bond package. According to The Associated Press, Gov. Mike Easley and legislative leaders created the 21st Century Transportation Committee last fall to find a way to narrow the difference between transportation revenues and highway and public transportation needs. During the next 20 years, that differential is estimated to be $65 billion. Representatives of a coalition of environmental and social service advocacy groups asked the panel to refrain from recommendations that would encourage sprawl.
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