May 1, 2008
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
The Fresno County Planning Commission reversed its earlier, tentative approval of a 315-acre mine on Kings River. According to The Fresno Bee, Calaveras Materials Inc. was asked to put more work on a list of environmental protections and other conditions before receiving final approval. At a March meeting, the board indicated that it was not satisfied that the farmland loss and other effects had been satisfactorily addressed. The company’s proposal called for mining a million tons of gravel per year from the site. It would be the third large mine either operating or planned in the area. Vulcan Materials Inc. received approval on a 440-acre expansion of its 200-acre site last year. Jesse Morrow Mountain is waiting for the commission’s review of its proposal for a 500-acre site. A spokesperson for Calaveras Materials told the newspaper that the commission’s decision would be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
Grace Pacific announced that it has six to eight years of reserves left at its current quarry, but it is not the top-grade aggregate material needed to complete its construction commitments on the island of Oahu, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports. Bob Creps, a senior vice president at Grace Pacific, told the newspaper that if the Makakilo Quarry closes, the island’s two remaining quarries will not be able to meet demand, and aggregate will have to be imported at two to four times the cost of local aggregate. Citizens have asked the company to relocate its quarry to a less populated area, but Creps says their research shows that there are no significant basalt deposits suitable for quarrying on the island. Further, he adds that Ameron Hawaii’s effort to permit a new operation in the late ’90s illustrates that it is unlikely a new site will be approved in Oahu. Instead, Grace Pacific has suggested that a neutral geologist do an independent assessment of natural resource development options.
A gift from the Cornejo family to Newman University will be used to create the Jess Cornejo Plaza, in honor of the late founder of Cornejo & Sons, The Wichita Eagle reports. The plaza will serve as an outdoor gathering place for official university functions and other events, such as concerts, fairs, and meetings. Work is expected to be complete by the end of the spring semester, and a formal dedication ceremony is planned as part of the university’s 75th anniversary celebration beginning Sept. 12.
Lafarge North America paid a $20,000 and is ramping up the use of dust control technologies at its East South Street quarry in Frederick as required in a consent order with the state. According to the News-Post, the order stems from claims the state made against the company in 2006. A Jan. 25 inspection of the site by Maryland’s Department of the Environment (MDE) found it to be in compliance with state law. As part of the consent order, Lafarge is required to install and use dust suppression equipment including sprayers on its crushers, water cannons on its stockpiles, and sweeper and water trucks to minimize dust on its roads. The company is also required to draw up a plan to move its stockpiles, conduct and log daily inspections of its dust suppression equipment, and make quarterly reports to the MDE. The company also plans in install a wheel washing system to prevent trackout.
The Michigan Court of Appeals declined to hear an appeal made by a mining opposition group regarding Aggregate Industries’ bid to open a mine in Alamo Township. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that a spokesperson for the anti-mining group said, “For all practical purposes, (the fight) ends here.” A year-and-a-half-long battle has been waged in the effort to open this mine. Previously, the town zoning board voted to deny the company’s request for a special-use permit to operate a 165-acre mine. Aggregate Industries responded with a $10 million lawsuit against the township. While the company’s battle with Alamo Township appears to be ending, the Oshtemo Township Board of Trustees rejected its request to allow truck traffic on a street that does not currently permit truck traffic. An attorney for the group that owns the property to be mined has threatened litigation in that matter.
A Miller County court handed down $252,000 in fines against Jefferson City-based Lake Ozark Sand & Gravel Inc., $22,000 in fines against Kenneth Hawk, and $26,000 in fines against Tim Duncan, according to www.lakesunleader.com. The Web site reports that the fines stem from charges of criminal disposition of demolition waste in the first degree. According to the county prosecutor, the two men and the business violated the Missouri Solid Waste Management Law when they illegally disposed of construction and demolition waste on Hawk’s property on Blue Springs Road. The size of the illegal dump led to criminal rather than civil charges, however, a portion of the fees were suspended due to the parties’ cooperation in properly closing the site. In addition, three contractors face civil claims for dumping solid waste at the site.
Gravel pit owners in Nye County are being asked if their sites could be used as a flood retention basin following a county report that outlined a $315 million flood control plan for the entire valley. The Pahrump Valley Times reports that the county plans to build a channel to divert flood waters from Wheeler Wash into a series of pits, including one owned by Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky. A trench would be cut to channel the water into the pits, but the county would have to request a right-of-way from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A BLM natural resource specialist told the newspaper that more sand and gravel operations could be steered toward an 80-acre area southwest of sites owned by local pavement contractor Wulfenstein and Cemex.
The state Supreme Court has dealt two blows to Troy Sand & Gravel’s nearly five-year quest to mine aggregate in the town of Nassau. The Times Union reports that Justice Michael Lynch denied the company’s move to stop the town from passing a comprehensive plan that includes tight restrictions on mining. The company received a mining permit from the state last May, but the town has refused to grant it the necessary town permit and variance to begin mining. Instead, the town has been developing legislation to prevent mining. Earlier this year, Troy Sand & Gravel sent notices to residents surrounding its proposed site that it would be blasting. The company’s counsel, Andrew Gilchrist, said the blasting was not connected to mining, but was for work to carve out a road from the site to a local highway. The town asked Lynch to stop the company from blasting, and the justice agreed with the town.
A 30-acre parcel of land that Manchester Sand and Gravel offered to donate to the town of Hooksett was deemed not to be suitable for a new high school. According to The Union Leader, two sets of high-tension power lines run through the property, and it also contains wetlands, a brook, and flood plains that prohibit building. A planning board member suggested that the town ask Manchester Sand and Gravel for another parcel of land to build a school.
A Mitchell County engineer and surveyor, Randy Carpenter, is at the heart of concerns regarding a proposal for a new quarry in Avery County. According to the News & Observer, Carpenter did much of the engineering and survey work on a real estate development known as the Village of Penland. That project collapsed, leaving dozens of investors owing banks more than $100 million on mountain property that was worth a fraction of the debt. It also incurred violations and fines of more than $250,000 for altering wetlands and rerouting streams without permits. The fines were paid, but land has not been returned to its original state; therefore the violations remain unresolved. The director of the state Division of Land Resources told the newspaper that lawyers for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are reviewing whether Carpenter’s mining permit should be denied based on those violations. In the meantime, the department has asked him to address 15 issues related to the quarry on Burleson Bald.
A baseball field covered with crushed gravel containing erionite has been voluntarily shut down due to concerns that the mineral may cause cancer. The Associated Press Online reports that the mineral is commonly found in gravel mines in Stark and Slope counties, in the southwestern part of the state. Officials there have been asked not to use the gravel. Steve Way, a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coordinator, told a group in Killdeer that they should be “looking at this for health concerns” despite the fact that the EPA does not regulate the mineral. State Rep. Shirley Meyer told federal and state officials that they now would have to import aggregate from outside the county — at a higher cost to taxpayers. “It seems to me like you’re making a mountain out of a molehill with what little data you have,” she told EPA and state officials. “The taxpayers in this county are having a tough time trying to swallow this.” Federal and state officials have been testing rocks and airborne samples from Dunn County throughout the past two years, the news agency says, but they want to increase those tests, including tests on humans.
In mid-March, volunteers in Boone County planted more than 3,000 trees at the Boone Conservancy Mine Reclamation Project Site. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the project at a former sand and gravel site in Belleview is part of a larger effort to conserve the quality of the Middle Creek watershed.
The Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association (OAIMA) will host the 17th Annual National Minerals Education Conference (NMEC) in Columbus. To be held June 15-18, the conference features education sessions led by faculty and industry experts. It provides a unique opportunity for educators and industry professionals to share experiences, generate new ideas, and provide innovative approaches to minerals and resource education. Meetings, discussions, field trips, and activities will highlight the importance of minerals extraction in Ohio and the Midwest. Attendees will visit wildlife, recreation, and other sustainable post-mining areas as part of the seminar.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was negligent in protecting workers at the Crandall Canyon Mine, the Department of Labor’s Inspector General (IG) said in a new report. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the IG also said that MSHA could not ensure that its approval of the mining plan at the site was free of undue influence by the mine’s operator, Murray Energy. The agency responded to the report by noting that the word “negligent” was misleading and expressed concern that the IG implied that its decisions were affected by undue influence. The IG stood by its findings.
An excessive deer population in the Vulcan Quarry in Oshkosh has led local police to make a series of recommendations for thinning the herd. The Northwestern reports that 10 of the 43 car-deer accidents that have taken place in Oshkosh during the last three years took place at the Vulcan Quarry. City Police Chief Scott Greuel made four recommendations: ban the feeding of deer, plant deer-repellent plants, apply for state grant funds, and hire sharpshooters to thin the herd. Public safety concerns have prompted the proposal. Because it will take some time before sharpshooters could be used, the city is said to be considering a mix of lethal and non-lethal responses to the problem.
The state has amended the dredging permit of Hanson Aggregates PMA Inc. to mute loud banging, clanging, and motor noises from its dredging operation on the Allegheny River. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that this is the first time dredging noise has been taken into account by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) when issuing or amending a permit. The new policy has the potential to further restrict how and where commercial dredging operations will be allowed to mine sand and gravel from the Allegheny and Ohio rivers. The amendment prohibits dredging in a 0.7-mile-long section of the Allegheny closest to the River Forest Drive community of homes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The prohibition extends during the remainder of the year to evenings, weekends, and federal holidays. The DEP issued a dredging permit to Hanson in 2006, but categorized noise from its dredge equipment and engines and barge loading as a “public nuisance.” Dan Giovannitti, a dredging industry spokesperson, told the newspaper that the DEP failed to conduct an independent noise analysis in the area and noted that there are no existing DEP regulations that address noise from dredging.
The Washington state Department of Ecology announced that it had fined three Whidbey Island sand and gravel mines $16,000 each for not submitting reports required by the water quality permit under which they operate. The three facilities include Krieg Concrete Products Inc., Krieg Construction Inc., and Central Whidbey Sand & Gravel. Under the department’s water quality permit, sand and gravel operations must collect and manage their stormwater, using “best management practices.” An official for one of the companies acknowledged that while it had performed sampling tests, it had failed to forward those results to the Department of Ecology.
In early March, Elkhart Lake-based Crystal Lake Crushed Stone Co. presented its reclamation plan to the Sheboygan County Land & Water Conservation Department. However, the company’s plans for the future led to calls for the shut down of the operation, The Sheboygan reports. Nearly 125 people attended the meeting, and many of them criticized the plan for being too vague. The reclamation plan includes three phases, with the mine being closed by 2024. A variety of recreational uses, including a 31-acre lake, are part of the plans, which may also feature some buildings. Kevin Warner, general manager of the mine, told the newspaper that it was premature to finalize plans and said, “You’ve got to leave the door open to opportunities.”
Community growth and resource development appear to be at odds in Woodstock, Ontario, where a proposal for a new gravel pit on the village’s western border is being scrutinized. According to the Woodstock Sentinel-Review, the proposed operation is in the same area designated for village growth. The town is boxed in by rail tracks to the north, the Thames River to the east, and a commercial region in the south. The town manager of community and strategic planning noted that part of the problem is that current housing has been built upon buried gravel, which negates any ability to develop the resource. Provincial policies view sand, gravel, and other aggregate material as a valuable resource that’s needed for economic development, therefore legislation is written in a way that attempts to block development before the material can be extracted.