December 2008 – State & Province News


December 1, 2008

by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief


Richard T. O’Brien, CEO of Newmont Mining, was elected a director of Vulcan Materials Co.’s board, the Birmingham Business Journal reports. O’Brien is also a director of Newmont Mining and Inergy Holdings LP. “Richard O’Brien brings over 20 years of broad financial and operational experience in the energy and natural resources businesses to the deliberations of Vulcan’s board of directors,” said Vulcan Chairman and CEO Don James.


According to the Huntsville Times, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources opposes a plan from Nashville, Tenn.-based Rogers Group to mine a 209-acre site near Tanner. “Until our concerns are addressed through the permitting process, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources cannot support location of a quarry in Limestone County near Swan Creek and Pryor Spring,” Barnett Lawley said in a letter to state Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, who also is against the quarry. Officials are said to want proof from Rogers Group that quarry discharges will not harm Swan Creek, Pryor Branch, the Swan Creek WMA, and other wildlife.


Willows residents voiced their concerns about a proposed gravel mine during a recent meeting of the Glenn County Planning Commission. According to the Chico Enterprise-Record, issues such as the pastoral nature of the community, traffic, water supply, and environmental were raised by the community. North Valley Rock Products was expected to request an application for a conditional use permit, but asked for a continuance. It would like to mine 20 million tons of sand and gravel from more than 300 acres near Highway 32.


After being pulled off the consent calendar and briefly discussed during an October meeting, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors approved an additional $57,270 for the Harris Quarry environmental impact report. The Daily Journal reports that the proposed conversion of the quarry, located near Willits, into an asphalt plant has been in the works for years. “This is very rapidly becoming the most expensive EIR in Mendocino County history if it’s not already,” said Board Chairman Jim Wattenburger. “It’s costing a huge amount of money. My concern is it just keeps getting dragged out and dragged out.” Additional expenditures will be used to reassess the construction of replacement channels on the site, proposed additional improvements to Highway 101, revised traffic report, a new list of heavy equipment and generators, and additional data about site drainage and the design and operation of the bioretention swale.


New aggregate operations may face tougher rules if Indian River County Commissioners approve a series of revisions to county mining laws. The Press Journal reports that county commissioners reviewed the basic proposals of new mining regulations during a four-hour meeting in October. By a 3-2 vote, commissioners rejected a regulation that would have required future operations to seek their approval. Commissioner Mary McGuire-Smith chastised Commissioner Wesley Davis for making the motion. He told the newspaper that, “I feel we’re crafting rules for a (single) mine and not negotiating a mining policy for the whole county.” He also said that his brother’s ownership of a sand mine had nothing to do with his position. Commissioners gave the nod to the local planning director to rewrite 37 of the proposals as revisions to current mining laws. They will be presented for final action some time this month.


At press time, Clarkston-based Steelman-Duff was preparing to auction its road building equipment as it exits the road construction business after nearly six decades. According to the Lewiston Morning Tribune, the company ran a skeletal crew this year and found no new work. “We’ve had slow periods,” Hyrum Cox, president of the business, told the newspaper. “This is the first time I can remember we’ve ever been completely out of work.” The company’s last significant project was as a subcontractor responsible for grading and crushing material for the widening of Highway 270 between Moscow and Pullman. With no revenue coming in, Cox said he could not afford to keep the business going any longer.


With the stagnating economy eroding the cement industry, Essroc Materials pushed ahead its plans to close its Frederick plant that employs 90 workers and, instead, use the site as a distribution center, the company announced. The Gazette reports that all inventory will be moved by next year, when Essroc will transfer production operations at its Buckeystown Pike location to its Martinsburg, W.Va., plant, which is getting a $500,000 upgrade. The renovation includes technology upgrades and environmental improvements, after which the plant will have significantly more production capacity than the Frederick plant, said Essroc spokesman Marco Barbesta. The plant had been expected to close within two years, but financial reasons drove an earlier closure. Citing rising production costs due to higher energy prices, the company also announced that it will raise prices by $15 per ton, starting Jan. 1.


A Miller County judge has several options when ruling on Magruder Limestone’s request to require quarry opponents to post a bond or allow the company to start blasting. According to the Lake Sun Leader, Jaynes can award Magruder the $1-million bond it is asking or continue the case for a formal hearing. Both parties expressed interest in expediting the hearing process so a decision would come quickly, if that was the course of action the judge decided to take. Magruder’s lawyer said, if the case moved into the full hearing, witnesses would be called to testify about the financial impact of not using the site and recent blasting close to the same sewer lines for construction on the expressway. Magruder is asking the court to require the petitioners to jointly post a bond or consider other options, including allowing the company to start blasting.

North Dakota

One executive of Dickinson-based Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. has pleaded guilty in a federal tax fraud case, while another has pleaded not guilty. The Bismarck Tribune reports that both CEO Amiel Schaff and Vice President Michael Fisher were accused of avoiding income tax payments between 2001 and 2004. Schaff has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud; four other charges against him were dropped as part of the plea agreement. The agreement says that Schaff knew that personal expenses for Fisher and other family members were being accounted for as business expenses in company records. Sentencing is set for March 30. Fisher has pleaded not guilty to the nine counts with which he is charged.


Jackson Township and Grove City officials want the city of Columbus to stop Jones Fuel Co. (also known as Jones Topsoil) from opening a quarry on 60 acres of its 90-acre parcel near I-270. Jackson Township Administrator Mike Lilly sent letters to the Columbus City Council and Mayor Michael Coleman calling the plan “a horrible change in land use.” The Columbus Dispatch reports that the city council was scheduled to vote on an ordinance necessary to annex the land to the city, but a council member asked for it to be pulled from the agenda so stakeholders could discuss it further.


Ross Island sits in the middle of the Willamette River and features a lagoon on the east side that Ross Island Sand and Gravel mined for decades. Mining ended in 2005, although the company still runs a gravel crushing facility there. Last year, Ross Island owner Bob Pamplin donated 45-acres of the island to the city. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, work recently began to restore the native habitat, and workers hope to regenerate the population of cottonwood and ash trees on the island. The reclamation plan also calls for nearly 415 million cubic yards of clean fill – to be provided by Ross Island Sand and Gravel – to be deposited in the lagoon.


The Times reports Washington County officials have tentatively denied Measure 49 claims from Tigard Sand & Gravel LLC and Oregon Asphaltic Paving LLC. The groups operate on a combined 276 acres near Sherwood. The companies filed claims to allow the property owner to divide the land into the number of parcels permitted when he acquired the property and establish one dwelling on each parcel. Neighbors supported the idea, but county officials tentatively denied the companies’ claims saying that they failed to demonstrate that the claimant is the property owner as defined by state law and that they failed to demonstrate that any regulations adopted since the property came inside the Urban Growth Boundary reduced the fair market value of the property as required by state law.


Vulcan Materials Co. donated $46,765 to the Southeastern Adams Volunteer Emergency Services (SAVES) capital campaign, “A Partnership for a Safer Community.” According to The Evening Sun, SAVES plans to run the campaign for six months with a goal of raising more than $1 million to help finance a new fire station and social hall.


According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), it issued a permit amendment that restricts Hanson Aggregates’ dredging activities in portions of the Allegheny River. The change was made after a type of mussel, regarded by the federal government as a species of concern, was discovered. When the DEP issued Hanson its dredging permit in 2006, it required the company to conduct mussel surveys and report the results to the agency. The surveys and reporting had to be done before dredging could begin in a new area. The survey found two live salamander mussels, which the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have proposed be placed on the state’s threatened and endangered species list. The DEP agreed to prohibit dredging in the areas where salamander mussels were found. The amendment prohibits Hanson from dredging in the river at mile 31.25 through mile 31.65, but authorizes the company to dredge in the river from mile 30.7 to mile 31.25 and from mile 31.65 to mile 31.7. Hanson may request authorization to dredge in the prohibited area if the mussels are not added to the Fish and Boat Commission’s threatened and endangered list.


Bedford County Board of Commissioners’ rules and legislative committee deferred action on a proposed change to the county zoning resolution affecting where quarries can be located to seek a legal opinion from the county attorney. The Shelbyville Time Gazette reports that commissioners have already rejected the proposed change once, but Bedford County Planning Commission asked for it to be reconsidered. The proposed change would move quarries from the special impact industrial zone to the general industrial zone. In either case, a quarry developer would have to ask for property to be rezoned. Commissioners are wrestling with overall land-use issues such as whether quarries should be located within the urban growth boundary – close to a city – or in more rural locations.


Approximately 30 residents attended a public hearing at Underhill’s town hall to hear about the town’s plan to operate a 24-acre gravel pit. According to The Burlington Free Press, the members of the Selectboard say they believe the $1.15 million project may significantly lower the town’s expenditures for road repair and winter sanding. Attendees asked for a more detailed financial analysis than was offered at the meeting. They also voiced concerns about noise generated by the site, which is located near the town center. A consultant arranged a demonstration of sound-testing equipment and machinery, but not the crushing operations. That demonstration was scheduled for two weeks after the town meeting.


Luck Stone will temporarily stop mining at its Massaponax facility because the market for stone in this region has dropped, The Freelance Star reports. In the meantime, Luck plans to seek local government approval to expand its mining operation at its other Spotsylvania County location. A spokesman for the company said it plans to file a special-use permit to mine on 28 acres currently used for processing and inventory at its Smith Station-Leavells site. That plant has been in operation since 2002. It will continue to sell inventory at the Massaponax site, and it could reopen for mining when the economy improves. The company is trying to absorb the plant’s six employees at its other sites in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina.


According to the Daily News Record, Partners Excavating Co. and Frazier Quarry volunteered to restore Harrisonburg-based Pleasant Valley Elementary School’s rutted and uneven track. The school’s Parent Teacher Association contacted them about the need for a new track when it couldn’t pick up the $6,000 to $7,000 tab. In a few days, the company dug out the old track and dropped approximately 122 tons of stone to create a new 4-foot walkway that winds around the playground. The new track is wider than the old one and winds around the playground at a length of about three-tenths of a mile. “It looks like Interstate 81 now,” one PTA parent told the newspaper. “I think it’s important for people to know there are still businesses out there that are willing to help.” Frasier Quarry’s Jeff Holsinger and Partners Excavating’s Seth Berkey said both companies are dedicated to helping out the community whenever possible.

Province News

The city of Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada, received a check for $71,634 from Ontario Aggregate Resources Corp., on behalf of Ontario Trap Rock. According to the Sault Star, the proceeds represent a 6.5-cent fee for each ton of rock excavated from a pit near the east side of the town. In 1997, the corporation took over the administration of the Aggregates Resources Act. The funds are used to cover the costs of developments as well as rehabilitating abandoned quarries.

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