State and Province News February 2011
To keep up to date with this breakdown of news in the United States and Canada, visit www.AggMan.com for daily updates.
By Therese Dunphy
In late December, a federal appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling that a Fayetteville city ordinance that placed restrictions on quarries outside the city limits could cause irreparable harm to the companies. The Times Record reports that the three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s preliminary injunction that prevented the city from exercising authority over Rogers Group’s limestone quarry near Fayetteville. The company filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s 2009 ordinance that limited blasting to a handful of days a year. The Fayetteville City Council said the ordinance was needed because three quarries located within a mile of the city had become nuisances because of noise and vibration complaints from citizens.
Graniterock hosted more than 50 middle school students for a week-long Algebra Academy at its corporate office in Watsonville. According to the company, the event was part of its ongoing community outreach program with Rolling Hills Middle School where the operator provides support, tutoring, and mentoring in a number of subjects. Graniterock and the school collaborated with the Cal-State University Monterey Bay Math Department, which is nationally recognized for its work with community grade school students. After brainstorming options to put students on a path to higher academic achievement, they agreed on an intensive, six-day Algebra event. Graniterock also hosted a graduation ceremony and luncheon for participants. The university and school district plan to track the performance of program graduates in future years to help and improve the program over time.
In mid-December, a small fire broke out at Vulcan Materials Co.’s Reliance plant in Irwindale. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the morning fire was reported by Vulcan employees. As the first units arrived on the scene, they found a flaming tank. Flames were extinguished in the largely empty tank — used to produce rubberized asphalt — within about 45 minutes. Officials are working to determine the cause of the fire.
Overall mining activity throughout the state increased during 2010 after a dip in 2009, The Spokesman-Review reports. Idaho produced $1 billion worth of minerals in 2008 before production dropped in 2009. Production appears on track to match or surpass 2009 production, according to an associate research geologist for the Idaho Geological Survey. However, the geologist noted that mining for gravel and limestone did not fare as well, and those markets are not expected to recover for a couple of years.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit to Nugent Sand and Gravel Co. to expand its barge unloading facility in a cove near Utica. According to The Courier-Journal, the Corps included restrictions on commercial operations in the cove, including a prohibition of additional docking of barges on the western side of the cove from May 1 to Sept. 15, which is prime recreational boating season. During recreational boating season, barges can’t be moved within the cove on weekends and from 5 p.m. the day before through 7 a.m. the day after a federal holiday. Up to 71 barges will be allowed in the cove, up from a previous limit of 10. During prime boating season, a cap of 41 moored barges will be in place.
Chad Van Zee, president of a Rock Valley ready-mixed concrete company, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to fix prices for sales of ready-mixed concrete, the Department of Justice announced. According to the charge, Van Zee participated in a conspiracy with Steven Keith VandeBrake — a former executive of another ready-mixed concrete company — to set annual price increases to sell ready-mixed concrete at collusive and non-competitive prices, and accepted payment for those sales. Van Zee is charged with violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty for individuals of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. In May 2010, VandeBrake pleaded guilty. He agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s ongoing antitrust investigation and to serve 19 months in prison.
According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), it has obtained a court order that imposes several requirements on Sullivan Granite Co. LLC, which operates Brown’s Meadow Quarry in Franklin. In early December, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine ordered mine owner and operator Conrad Smith to cease operating the mine until all cited and outstanding safety and health violations have been corrected, and a federal inspector has verified that the operator is in compliance. The operator was also directed not to take any action to impede or interfere with MSHA inspectors in completing their inspection duties. MSHA inspectors asserted that — as early as last June — the mine operator violated withdrawal orders issued by MSHA; denied them entry to the property; failed to abate violations; and refused to allow access to equipment at the quarry, provide documents and information on request, and assist with the inspection.
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