April 1, 2011
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Although a Limestone County woman has voiced concerns that a new gravel mine will lower her property value, the Huntsville natural resources director told the Huntsville Times that there is no reason to deny the operation’s application for an air permit. A developer is opening the mine to supply material for the development of a subdivision, the Preserve at Limestone Creek. The developer said that gravel extraction at the site will keep the 750 truckloads of gravel needed for the first phase of the subdivision’s development off surrounding roads.
The House of Representatives is considering legislation that would allow the state to recover any profits earned by open-cut mining operations — including sand and gravel sites — that are found to be operating without a permit. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is limited to issuing a fine of $1,000 for a first violation with higher fines for repeat offenders. The deputy director of that department estimated that a company recently found to be operating a gravel mine without a permit made $1,000 each day and was in operation for nine months. He told the newspaper that companies operating without a permit were able to provide a competitive advantage over those that conducted their mining operations within the legal guidelines.
Teichert Aggregates is applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for $250,000 toward the construction of a biomass plant that would burn plant waste and create electricity. The Appeal-Democrat reports that the company plans to build the plant on its property near Linda, in Yuba County. If built, it would generate up to 20 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for 20,000 homes. Mike Ray, a project manager for Teichert, told the newspaper that the company became interested in biomass after it began investigating ways to reduce the electrical bill for gravel mining and related operations. The company expects to hear about its grant application within three to six months. From then, it anticipates a two-year timeframe to secure financing, gain necessary approvals, and build the plant.
York Building Products faces challenges on its request to have the county rezone 706 acres in the Carpenters Point peninsula as mineral extraction area (MEA). In an online report, www.mydailybiz.com reports that the zoning is being considered as two separate parcels. One parcel was proposed to be zoned as industrial, with York Building Products requesting a change to MEA. The county’s planning and zoning staff is recommending approval of that request, but the planning commission is recommending disapproval. The second parcel is proposed to be zoned as northern agriculture residential with an overlay that would allow mining if the owner gets a special-use permit. The company is seeking a MEA designation on that property as well. Both the planning staff and planning commission have recommended against that request.
In early March, Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign reintroduced a federal bill that would declare mining off limits on 800 acres of land in Sloan Hills that are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Rep. Dean Heller submitted a companion bill in the House. “The Sloan Hills gravel pit not only disturbs an otherwise peaceful community, but poses serious health risks to thousands of Nevada residents,” Reid told the newspaper. A previous attempt to pass such legislation died in last year’s session of Congress when it was made part of a package of approximately 100 public lands and wilderness initiatives. Republicans blocked the bill, saying that some portions were too controversial and that it was an overreach.
A drilling and blasting contractor working in a Pembroke quarry fell 30 to 40 feet into the quarry, the Concord Monitor reports. The contractor suffered a broken leg and head injuries and was transported to the local hospital. The Pembroke police chief said his department contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which was expected to contact the Mine Safety and Health Administration about the incident. The worker was wearing a hard hat and safety harness, but the harness may have been unhooked because he was in an area that did not require it.
Patrick DiLucia, vice president of sales for the Dolomite Group Inc., told the Rochester Business Journal that costs of construction materials are starting to inch up as crude oil prices climb. The 100-year-old company, purchased by Oldcastle Inc. in 2000, sells crushed stone, sand, gravel, asphalt, and concrete. DiLucia said that rising oil prices increase delivery costs for aggregates, as well as asphalt costs. He told the journal that his company and other local construction companies are cutting costs by instituting longer seasonal layoffs and cutting employee hours in addition to shortening production runs at the company’s quarries.
Aggregate Industries U.S., Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Holcim Ltd., announced that Lattimore Materials Corp. (LMC), a Texas-based aggregates and ready-mixed concrete producer, has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aggregate Industries. Prior to the transaction, Holcim owned a minority interest in LMC. “Until now, Aggregate Industries U.S. did not have a presence in Texas,” said Bernard Terver, Holcim Ltd. United States area manager. “The acquisition of LMC firmly establishes Aggregate Industries U.S. operations in this important area of the United States and allows (it) to fully leverage the very strong positions and reputation of LMC.” The new subsidiary operates seven aggregate operations, 26 ready-mix sites with 35 concrete plants, four rail terminals, and a fleet of more than 400 mixer and haul trucks.
In late February, an equipment operator was found dead at a facility on the Great Salt Lake’s Stansbury Island. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the victim was found face down on a conveyor that had stopped operating. When paramedics arrived on the scene, he was not breathing or responsive. The newspaper reports that Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators did not release any information on the victim’s injuries, but had not ruled out the possibility that his death may have resulted from natural causes.
The Putney Town Board wants to borrow up to $75,000 to continue its partnership with the town of Dummerston on a shared gravel pit. The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the two towns share another pit that has saved Putney $125,000 in sand and gravel costs by operating its own pit. That site is nearing the end of its life, and the two towns want to open a new pit. The town manager told the board that all future sand will be free and clear of any costs other than their lease price per yard, approximately half of the going price of purchased sand.
Luck Stone Corp. is credited with keeping the Xterra East Championship, a mountain bike triathlon race, in Richmond. Richmond BizSense reports that the company has committed at least $25,000 to sponsor the event. A previous sponsor had pulled its support, and the event’s future with the city was in doubt. An Old Dominion University professor estimated last year’s economic impact for the two-day event to be slightly more than $1 million. “Had we not been able to find Luck Stone like we did, this certainly would have gone to Charlotte, N.C.,” Councilman Doug Conner told the journal.
At Aggregates Manager’s press time, a public hearing was scheduled before the Caroline Planning Commission regarding Vulcan Material Co.’s proposal for a sand and gravel mine on a 541-acre property in Caroline County. According to the Free Lance-Star, the company hopes to have the mine operational by summer of 2012. The site is expected to create 14 full-time jobs and generate annual tax revenues of about $100,000, with material being barged along the Rappahannock River. More than 100 people turned out for an early March meeting, with many opposing the project.
In March, Thurston County Commissioners ruled that further environmental review is necessary before a Maytown gravel mine project can move forward. The Olympian reports commissioners sent the case back to a county hearing examiner who previously ruled the mine’s special-use permit to be valid, noting that some of the prairie habitat protected under the county critical-areas ordinance is included within the boundaries of the 287-acre mine. The county planning director said that from 5 to 75 acres might need to be removed from the mine to comply with county regulations that were in effect when the mine permit was issued in 2005. Maytown Sand and Gravel bought the property from the Port of Tacoma in 2010 for $17 million. If the permit is rejected, the sale could fall through and the land could revert back to the port.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is being asked to consider certain reclamation activities of aggregates sites as a potential threat to drinking water. According to the Guelph Mercury, the agency’s source protection program manager, Martin Keller, said the ministry has identified a series of “prescribed drinking water threats” related to water quality issues including the storage of fuel, the use of agricultural fertilizers and chemicals, pesticide application, waste disposal, and septic systems. He also noted that water ponds on these sites can allow the introduction of contaminants into the groundwater system. The ministry’s manager of source protection planning said it is “currently evaluating the activity to determine whether or not we can assign what we call a hazard rating.” If post-extraction aggregate sites are added to a list of drinking water threats, it could “open the door to look at potential policies that would mitigate the risks,” Keller said.