January 3, 2011
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A new University of Arizona-based training center is being designed to improve how students and miners are taught the science and art of mine safety. According to The Associated Press, the Western Mining Safety and Health Training Resource Center will begin operations at the San Xavier Mining Laboratory, about 20 miles south of Tucson. The goal is to teach mine safety students and professionals all over the West. Four UA academic departments, the state Mine Inspector’s Office, and the Colorado School of Mines are collaborating to operate the center. One goal of the center is the creation of a local emergency mine rescue team to dispatch people to a mining accident.
A trio of aggregate producers — Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete, Vulcan Materials Co., and Cemex — that mine the Agua Fria Riverbed hosted a tour of their mining sites as they begin to ramp business back up to accommodate renewed demand. The Arizona Republic reports that about 50 people, including mayors, council members, school board officials, and curious neighbors, attended the tour. Vulcan noted that it imports barrels of cherry scent to mask the smell of new asphalt, showed misting systems used to minimize dust, and pointed out rumble strips used to clean mud from truck tires before they leave the mine. Lafarge reviewed its partnerships with the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Habitat Council and noted that it cut the need for four trucks through its recent acquisition of an overland conveyor system.
The driver of a gravel truck was killed when the vehicle overturned at an El Dorado intersection, the Associated Press reports. The driver, who was not named in the report, was traveling west on the highway and had difficulty maneuvering through the intersection. The vehicle rolled over, and the driver died at the scene.
The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors once again postponed its decision on a Black Butte gravel operation. According to Record Searchlight, hearings concerning Keith Darrah’s Truck Village Quarry were originally set for August 2010. The hearing was first tabled until September 2010, then December 2010. The hearing is now scheduled for Jan. 26 and 27. In June 2010, the Siskiyou County Planning Commission ordered Darrah to stop removing gravel from the cinder cone, a landmark along Interstate 5.
Flathead News Group reports that a zoning proposal aimed at limiting the size of extractive industries in the North Fork failed to win approval by the Flathead County Commissioners. About 95 percent of the North Fork is federal or state land, so the proposed zoning text amendment would have applied to less than 14,000 acres of private land. Commissioner Joe Brenneman’s motion to approve a zoning text amendment that would limit the size of sand and gravel operations in the North Fork to 5 acres and 20,000 tons per year died for a lack of a second.
Four camouflage-painted bulldozers leveled a sand stockpile in Litchfield where the town used to mine gravel. According to the Kennebec Journal, members of the 133rd Engineering Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard performed three days of work as a training exercise for heavy-equipment operators. The city was able to begin the reclamation process on its property, which takes up approximately 50 acres in the center of town.
Owners of Laurel Sand and Gravel and 1325 G Street Associates agreed to pay a $170,000 fine issued against the companies in July by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for sediment and water-pollution violations. According to The Laurel Leader, the penalty, which was finalized in court documents dated Oct. 25, will be paid to MDE’s Clean Water Fund for charges MDE officials lodged against the companies that included “…unlawful discharges of wastewater, failure to follow an approved erosion and sediment control plan, and failure to comply with the mining permit at four current and former surface mining sites.”
The Worcester County Commissioners are writing rules to regulate the movement of large trucks in Pocomoke County, the Daily Times reports. Merrill Lockfaw, commissioner-elect for District 1, served as county road superintendent for 19 years. He wrote a letter to commissioners and expressed concerns for safety as well as the economic impact of heavy trucks on county bridges and roads. To circumvent a requirement that vehicles be stopped and weighed by a commercial vehicle inspector before being held accountable for breaking state law, the commissioners have discussed regulating gross vehicle weight instead. Commissioner Virgil Shockley told the newspaper that there would be no impact on farm vehicles or trucks making deliveries in the area, only through traffic.
A group of 10 Granby residents filed an appeal asking the court to annul Stony Hill Sand and Gravel Co.’s special use permit on the grounds that the frequent truck traffic would pose health and safety problems in their residential area. The Republican reports that the business requested the special permit from Granby. The township failed to make a decision within the required 90 days of the first public hearing, which took place in June 2010. Without action, the special permit was deemed approved, but community residents had 20 days to file an appeal, and they did. The group’s appeal names Stony Hill, the property owner, and three members of the Granby Select Board as defendants. Now, the group, the town, and the company will all bear the costs of litigation.
At press time, Helena Sand & Gravel and Lewis and Clark County were waiting for a decision from District Court Judge Kathy Seeley over its three-year-long zoning conflict. According to the Independent Record, the operator filed a complaint against the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission in July 2008, alleging that the commission adopted standards without regard to the county growth policy, engaged in illegal spot zoning, and damaged the value of the company’s property without just compensation. The suit came after the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved zoning regulations that prevented the company from expanding its 111-acre gravel operation on its 440-acre property. A trial date has not been set.
Two juveniles were taken into Blasdell Village Police custody in early November following fires set in two vacant structures at Buffalo Crushed Stone Co.’s site near Woodlawn. WGRZ reports that residents noticed smoke in the area and called the local fire department. The local fire chief told the television station that the fires were caused by arson, and police found the two juvenile suspects. No injuries were reported.
Silvi Concrete, Inc. hosted a fundraiser to support Mike Fitzpatrick, who won election to the U.S. House of Representatives as representative of the state’s 8th Congressional District. The two-hour event featured a luncheon for more than 200 guests, as well as speeches from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker, with speakers talking of smaller government, lower taxes, and less regulation. Fitzpatrick defeated incumbent Patrick Murphy on Nov. 2.
Dozens of employees from Texas Crushed Stone and neighboring Georgetown Railroad attended a recent Georgetown Council meeting to protest the community’s annexation plan, which includes the property of both companies. Community Impact Newspaper reports that more than 60 people packed council chambers for the second public hearing on the involuntary annexation of nearly 6,000 acres. Texas Crushed Stone has a limestone quarry in that area that has operated since 1958 and employs 121 people.
A proposed gravel pit in Underhill might once again resurface before area residents. According to The Burlington Free Press, community voters were strongly in favor of retaining a purchase option on land near the village center that could be developed as a gravel pit and used to lower the town’s costs for road repair and winter sanding. To move forward, the project would require voters to approve the purchase and a bond to secure financing. In earlier public meetings, the Selectboard described the proposed operation as a 20-year site with crushing and screening taking place on a maximum of 30 days a year.
CalPortland has agreed to sell its 236-acre mine on Maury Island to King County for $36 million. The News Tribune reports that the state Legislature approved an allocation of $14.5 million from the $188 million Asarco settlement to help buy the property. Another $19.1 million is to be advanced from the King County Conservation Futures Fund, which can be used only to buy open space or resource lands. A final $2.4 million will come from an extension of a county lease on another gravel pit on the island to CalPortland, royalty-free, from 2020 to 2030. Ron Summers, senior vice president of the Materials Group at CalPortland, estimated that the company spent about $10 million on the permitting process and mitigation of the site. He told the newspaper that he had mixed feelings about the agreement and noted that its effect will be felt in another five to 10 years as the population grows and other reserves are depleted.
The Ontario Municipal Board ruled against James Dick Construction Ltd., which had been trying for more than a decade to open a pit on its 220-acre property near the Niagara Escarpment. The Globe and Mail reports that, following the ruling, the proposed quarry is “now all but dead.” Moreen Miller, president of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, told the newspaper that, “this speaks to the need to find and license additional resources within the Greater Toronto Area.”