May 2008 – State & Province News
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.