State and Province News October 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, Editor-in-Chief
Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation to help reduce fuel and equipment costs for trucking companies throughout the state. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the new law allows the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to issue permits for loads that previously exceeded size and weight restrictions for travel on state highways, if specific conditions are met. Sponsored by Sen. William Haine and Rep. Daniel Beiser, Senate Bill 42 applies to “divisible” loads that previously had to be broken down into separate shipments to meet the standard truck weight limit of 80,000 pounds. IDOT can now issue the necessary permits for a truck hauling a load weighing more than 80,000 pounds if it is traveling less than 5 miles and will not negatively impact pavement conditions along its route.
Duarte city officials have taken another step in their efforts to stop Vulcan Materials Co.’s mining project in Azusa. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the city filed its objections to a superior court decision with the state appeals court. A three-judge panel will now review the case, which could take more than a year to complete. The city has been fighting the project since the Azusa City Council approved Vulcan’s plan to shift its mining operations from 80 acres on the eastern end of its 270-acre property to 80 acres on its western end, closer to Duarte.
Two of Lafarge North America’s Illinois aggregate operations, Cave in Rock and Joliet, were recently awarded with the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers (IAAP) Community Relations Award. The award recognizes producer member companies whose community involvement and support activities enhance the public’s perception of the member’s aggregate operation and the aggregate industry in general. The Cave in Rock quarry was recognized for its community efforts around wildlife habitat restoration, working with residents to help clean up the banks of the Ohio River, and donations of money, materials, and services to community groups. The Joliet Quarry award recognized its community efforts and donations to Habitat for Humanity, Morning Star Mission Ministries, and employee’s labor to clean up the shoreline along the Illinois River. “It is part of our operating philosophy to give back to the communities in which we operate,” said Matthew Dantinne, vice president and general manager for Lafarge Midwest Aggregates. “We enjoy being part of the communities and continue to look for opportunities where we can make a difference.”
The Zavoral project advisory committee met in late August and toured Tiller Corp.’s proposed mine site before hearing reports regarding dust emissions, visual impact, traffic, and reclamation of the project. According to the Country Messenger, approximately 70 people attended the meeting concerning the 114-acre site. An air quality expert said the proposed mine would exceed national air quality standards if mitigation measures were not used, but noted that water, dust control chemicals, and sweeping could offset those impacts. Mining would not be visible to boaters along the neighboring river. One member of the committee noted concerns about traffic safety, while a resident called for the operation to be liable for damage to neighboring homes. The group’s final meeting will be held Nov. 16.
The Montana Supreme Court unanimously upheld the decision of a local judge who threw out a lawsuit filed by a Gallatin citizens group. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that the citizens group challenged the constitutionality of the way protests were handled concerning a gravel zoning district in the Gallatin Gateway area. The issue began when the Gallatin County Commission imposed a two-year temporary zoning district that required new and expanding gravel pits to go through a conditional-use permitting process, and area gravel operators, agricultural families, and developers protested the ordinance. Under a county law, property owners representing 50 percent of titled property in the proposed zoning district can protest and stop zoning. The citizens group argued that people, not land, vote, and the protest law infringed on the rights of others. The district judge did not rule on that issue because the law also required the county to act within 30 days of the protest period and either form the zoning district or throw it out. The county did not act on the zoning district.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has scheduled hearings for Elam Sand and Gravel Corp.’s proposed mine in West Bloomfield. According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Administrative Law Judge Molly T. McBride will oversee the process. It will include two hearings; one for public comment and another to define, narrow, and possibly resolve issues related to the mine. Participation at that conference will be limited to DEC staff, the operator, and others requesting party status prior to the conference. In addition to the DEC permit, Elam requires a special-use permit from the town of West Bloomfield, which has adopted a moratorium on new special-use permits. The operator has filed lawsuits to force the town to act on the permit and to void the moratorium.
Some Saginaw residents are upset by increased evening activity at Northwest Mineral Resources, KVAL 13 reports. The company has increased activity on Delight Valley School Road to supply its involvement in a repaving project for Interstate 5, but that paving can take place only between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. Lane County is reviewing the company’s operation plan, and the county’s sand and gravel committee is expected to address the project’s impact on residents.
A state appeals court has ruled against Cemex in a suit that claimed the company owed Texas a half-billion dollars in mineral royalties from its quarry in McKelligon Canyon. The El Paso Times reports that Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson sued the company, seeking $558 million in fees he says should have gone into the Texas Permanent School Fund. Texas property owners are generally required to lease mineral rights prior to extraction of oil, gas, and other materials from the ground. They then pay state royalties — a percentage of the market value — of what is removed from the land. While Cemex owns the land, the state claims the rights to minerals in the land. Cemex bought the quarry in 2005. Through the lawsuit, the company argued that “dirt, caliche, sand, gravel, limestone, and other materials at issue are not ‘minerals’ reserved to the state and therefore belong to Cemex.” It also argued it could not be held responsible for any royalties before 2005 when it purchased the land. The case will be returned to the trial court to determine how much the company owes.
At the end of August, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality held a public hearing concerning EOG Resources, Inc.’s proposed 1,400-acre frac sand mine in Muenster. According to the Gainesville Daily Register, both neighbors of the proposed site and EOG staff members made statements. Some neighbors addressed concerns that the site would destroy the bucolic nature of the area, while others were concerned about environmental impact. Employees noted the economic benefits of the site and pointed to the company’s efforts to aid Montague County during recent wildfires as a representation of what kind of neighbor the company would be.
The Washington Department of Ecology announced that it has modified the state’s Sand and Gravel General Permit. The new permit reduces the level of turbidity and solids that facilities may discharge into the state’s waters, and it requires portable operations to provide public notice prior to their activities. The action settles an appeal of the permit by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. The Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association intervened in the appeal, supporting the department’s original permit. The permit regulates water discharges from sand and gravel operations, quarries, and similar mining operations as well as hot-mix asphalt plants, concrete batch plants, and stockpile yards. It covers about 950 facilities in the state. Changes are effective Oct. 1. For more information, visit www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/sand/.
EOG Resources’ new sand plant in Chippewa Falls is scheduled to open by the end of the month, nearly a year after work on the facility began. The Leader-Telegram reports that, in early September, the plant was 90 percent complete and 300 people were working on the site. Approximately 40 sand mines are either currently operating or proposed in this part of the state, where the sand is particularly hard, round, and porous, making it ideal for use in extracting petroleum and natural gas from the ground. The EOG plant was originally expected to cost between $45 and $50 million, but that figure has grown to approximately $60 million with the addition of an indoor sand storage building.
Athabasca Minerals Inc. received approval from the government of Alberta for metallic and industrial mineral leases totaling approximately 31,630 acres at the Firebag Frac Sand Project located in the Wood Buffalo region of northern Alberta. The company says it intends to continue development of the project by initiating a National Instrument 43-101 technical report and pilot scale production of frac sand. “We are extremely pleased at the continued progress of the Firebag Frac Sand Project and look forward to additional positive developments, which will confirm the economic viability of frac sand production,” Dom Kriangkum, president of Athabasca Minerals, said in a press release. “This potential revenue stream further complements our existing revenues generated from the Susan Lake Aggregate Operation and Camp Operations. In addition to this, we continue to investigate industrial minerals, which benefit from the heightened activity in the oil and gas and oil sands industries.”