July 1, 2008
How one Michigan producer secured a special-use permit in only eight months without any hassle about truck traffic.
by Tina Grady Barbaccia, Senior Editor
When Kimberly Smith applied for a special-use permit, she was confident the process would go smoothly – even though she would be the first person to apply for a permit under a new site-specific ordinance for the mining of sand and gravel.
Smith, owner and president of Michigan-based Patriot Materials & Transport, LLC, received the permit in May, just eight months after extensive preparations and only three months after filing with Niles Township. She says a number of factors, including educating the public, being proactive, having a qualified team, being honest, going above and beyond requirements, and putting things into simple terms are the essential elements to securing a permit as seamlessly as possible.
“The biggest key to obtaining a permit is education,” Smith says. “I feel it is our job as a mining company applying for a permit to educate not only the [local township] board members but also the surrounding community about how the materials are used – the roads they drive on, the shopping malls they go to, schools, hospitals, and the houses they live in would not be possible without natural minerals – and that they just aren’t readily available…that they need to be mined where they are located.”
Although this may seem like common sense for producers, Smith says, it makes a world of difference. She provided literature, conducted several presentations, and even put together simple diagrams to show the community exactly how her site would operate.
And it worked. But the permitting process for her began well before any paperwork was filed. “You don’t just go in and ask for a special-use permit,” Smith says. “There are a lot of things you have to do before paying the application fee and turning in paperwork.”
Noise, dust, and truck traffic are common concerns about a mining operation. To make sure these didn’t become problems, Smith took a proactive approach. Before Smith even applied for a permit, she hired an engineering firm to take dosimeter (used to measure decibel levels) readings at specified locations throughout her property, which is located near a high-traffic area. The readings showed that before Smith had even set up her operation, the decibel levels far exceeded local noise limits, set forth by Niles Township, from traffic. This was the first step in showing that she isn’t just a “noisy, dirty gravel operator” and that truck traffic and processing from the operation would be minimally disruptive.
Smith then went to the company which she contracts with for her portable plant and took decibel readings at the plant to get a baseline of how loud it would be. “We were well within the limitations there,” she points out. “Operation and maintenance of quality equipment is key in lessening the noise levels.”
However, Smith says she recognizes that the noise wasn’t the only concern with trucks – safety is also a concern. “There are always some trucks that will come in too fast or do something they are not supposed to do,” Smith says. If a truck comes in or through the operation too quickly, she calls the truck driver out on it. If that doesn’t work, she goes to the truck operator’s employer. And if a community member raises a concern, Smith takes care of it immediately. “You need to follow through and not just put it in your ‘in basket,'” she says. “Whenever you put in a mine, you are creating an asset. You need to make the community understand that and make its members part of your team.”
Running the numbers
Patriot Materials & Transport hired a third party to conduct a traffic impact study to determine if the company’s proposed mine development would cause any safety and/or traffic impacts on the intersection where it would be located, as well as to address any safety concerns from the surrounding residents – paying particular attention to current and future housing developments located east of the development.
The study ultimately determined that the proposed gravel pit would not have any adverse effect on the local traffic based on current and proposed traffic volume flow rates. Furthermore, the study determined that any additional truck traffic in the area caused by the proposed gravel pit would still have ample room to safely maneuver on existing roadways and intersections.