Ohio earmarks funding for workforce training

Ohio has set allocated $34 million in funding for the new Innovative Workforce Incentive Program. Image by Neon Brand for Unsplash.

The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced a list of industry-recognized credentials eligible for $34 million under the new Innovative Workforce Incentive Program. The program was developed by Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly so students could earn in-demand, industry-recognized credentials.

According to ODE, the program includes $9 million in the state’s two-year budget for grants to assist school districts, community schools, joint vocational schools, and STEM schools in establishing credential programs to prepare students for careers in priority industry sectors.

School districts are also eligible to receive a share of $25 million over the current state budget to encourage the start of additional credential programs. Under this program, schools can receive $1,250 for each qualifying credential earned by students.

“When Ohio students graduate high school, they should be college or career ready,” said Governor DeWine. “This program helps schools expand credentialing opportunities and ensures potential employers that students have the skills they need to succeed in high-wage, in-demand fields.”

Ohio’s MACC Tech program (Mining, Asphalt, Concrete, Construction Technology) is among the programs approved by ODE. It provides a 12-point industry credential for high school students.

“We applaud the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, ODE, and the Ohio General Assembly for providing funding to jumpstart important, groundbreaking programs like MACC Tech,” said Pat Jacomet, executive director of the Ohio Aggregates and Industrial Minerals Association. “OAIMA members and our industry partners are excited to get started!”

Find more information on high school industry-recognized credentials here.  

Environmental agency requires cleanup of discharged limestone

The Michigan DEP ordered cleanup of limestone spilled into the Detroit River. Photo by Kahari King for Unsplash.

The Michigan Department of Environment sent a violation notice to Erickson’s Inc. ordering it to clean up limestone and other materials that its tenant spilled into the Detroit River in late November.

According to Local News 4, the dock at the site collapsed on Nov. 26, discharging an unknown amount of crushed limestone into the river, along with asphalt and contaminated soils.

Testing showed contaminant levels in the water were not detectable or well below quality standards, but the company was required to provide a restoration plant and schedule for removing the material from the river. It is also required to “consider action to prevent the exposed shoreline from further erosion,” the news outlet reported.

Fatality Alert: Mechanic dies performing maintenance

MSHA issued a fatality alert regarding a lockout/tagout incident. Photo courtesy of MSHA.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a Fatality Alert for LafargeHolcim’s Holly Hill Facility in Orangeburg County, S.C. A contract maintenance mechanic was performing elevator maintenance when the car descended, crushing the mechanic against an elevator platform. The person died at the scene on Dec. 3, 2019.

MSHA offers the following best practices to help prevent this type of accident:

  1. De-energize, lock out and tag out, and block machinery or equipment that can injure miners – before entering the area.
  2. Post warning signs or barricades to keep miners out of areas where health or safety hazards exist.
  3. Install an audible alarm to warn of impending equipment movement.
  4. Evaluate and correct possible hazards promptly before working.
  5. Train personnel in safely using handrails and fall protection equipment during maintenance and construction activities. Ensure their use.

This is the 22nd fatality reported in 2019, and the seventh fatality classified as Machinery.

National Lime and Stone receives state funds for rail-truck distribution yard

National Lime and Stone will receive nearly $250,000 for a distribution facility as part of Pennsylvania’s investment in rail freight improvement projects.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced the approval of 26 rail freight improvement projects that he says will create or sustain more than 390 jobs across Pennsylvania.

Among the approved projects is National Lime and Stone’s plan to construct 1,600 feet of track for a rail-truck distribution facility. The state will contribute just under $250,000 to the project.

“Investing in our extensive rail freight system increases mobility options and improves the efficiency of freight travel,” said Wolf, in a GANT News report. “These investments underscore our continued commitment to building a world-class infrastructure system that supports the business community and the creation of new jobs.”

According to the news outlet, Pennsylvania has 65 operating railroads – more than any other state in the country.

WOTUS heads to the White House for Review

The 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule will no longer be in effect, barring a legal stay, on Dec. 23, 2019. Photo by John Salzarulo for Unsplash.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final rule to replace the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule moves toward becoming a final rule. According to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), the rule is now at the White House to undergo interagency review. 

A replacement rule is expected by January 2020, with the 2015 rule being withdrawn in late December.

“NSSGA looks forward to a final WOTUS rule that provides clean water for everyone and legal clarity for NSSGA members,” said Emily Coyner, NSSGA senior environmental policy director, in a press release.

The association advocated “that ephemeral and isolated waters, pits and water treatment systems (including settling ponds) should never be federally regulated waters.” The proposed 2018 WOTUS rule reflected this input.

Special committee explores impact of Texas mining

A bipartisan committee, as well as TACA President and CEO David Perkins and Capitol Aggregates President Greg Hale, will review the impact of mining on surrounding communities.

Legislators and aggregate industry representatives will serve on a special bipartisan committee that explores the impact of Texas mining on the surrounding communities and explores the efficacy of current regulatory oversight. Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R) announced the appointment of the committee on Dec. 10.

According to the Statesman, the committee formation follows a series of stories that highlighted industry growth in the Hill Country in both the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV.

“My desire is that this committee will work to find common ground between industry and community and find paths that will increase public safety without endangering economic growth and prosperity,” state Rep. Terry Wilson, a Burnet County Republican who is heading the House Interim Study Committee on Aggregate Production Operations, told the Statesman.

The committee will include seven state representatives, David Perkins, director of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, and Greg Hale, president of Capitol Aggregates. It will evaluate crushing operations, concrete batch plants, and asphalt plants across the state.

The Statesman notes it will also “study the enforcement of regulations already in place; nuisance issues relating to the dust, noise and light; threats to the safety of and damage to roads; air quality; blasting enforcement; the distance between facilities and adjoining properties; and whether the state should adopt laws requiring operators to restore the land once they have completed mining.”

Perkins said he anticipates the committee could make recommendations that result in additional regulatory requirements and also might discuss voluntary approaches operators could take to be better neighbors.

“I think all of those are going to be on the table,” he told the news outlet. “I think we have some valuable perspective to offer, and hopefully that will result in whatever the outcome is being workable and an improvement.”

Midsouth Aggregates uses drones for inventory management and mine planning

MidSouth Aggregates implements drone program for consistent asset management. Photo courtesy of Kespry.

Kespry announced Midsouth Aggregates, part of CRH, is using the Kespry drone-based aerial intelligence platform for inventory management and mine planning. With granite and limestone reserves located throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, Midsouth Aggregates produces a variety of aggregate products.

“Kespry’s drones and software really sped up inventory management,” said Jerry Adkins, senior production manager, Midsouth Aggregates. “Kespry gave us a consistent measuring tool, whereas in the past we’d use other vendors who would do LIDAR and ground surveys. They would come on site, do the flights and it would usually take a couple of weeks to get the data. Then we’d have a different vendor come in later in the year using a different method for measuring.

“We brought it all in house and inventory management became something we could do monthly with more consistency and control,” he added, noting that he now has real-time status of sales yards and pits, as well as the ability to forecast blast tonnages and verify the forecast with a flight of the muck pile once the shot is on the ground. “Kespry is the best innovation I’ve encountered in my 19-year career. It really makes our lives easier. I would recommend it to anyone. Everyone I’ve introduced it to has been blown away.”

Midsouth Aggregates also uses Kespry for comprehensive short-term and long-term mine planning, including granular analysis of pits across its operations.

“Kespry gives us the ability to look at our pits in 2D and 3D,” Adkins said. “The volumetric tools allow us to do short-term and long-term mine planning. As a mining engineer, I found that very useful. Kespry is very user-friendly so we’ve been able to train our plant managers to do the same type of planning. In the past, we’d have a mine planner doing that for us. So, that’s improved the overall outlook of how they manage their pits.”

“We’re incredibly pleased to see how Kespry has helped Midsouth Aggregates optimize its inventory management and mine planning processes,” said George Mathew, CEO, Kespry, adding that the aerial intelligence platform is purpose-built to integrate with the complex workflows of companies like Midsouth Aggregates so they can benefit from real-time reporting and analytics.

Kespry Cloud, which enables companies to access inventory management and mine planning data 24×7 on any device, has also played a major role in creating internal visibility and transparency at Midsouth Aggregates.

“The Kespry Cloud has been awesome,” Adkins said. “I can look at all of our locations in one place and get fast access to all the data. It’s a really great communication tool as well. We use it in meetings with upstream management, contractors and our hourly employees to show them mine plans and real-time photos.”  

Aggregates production up 8 percent in third quarter

Crushed stone production was up 9 percent in the third quarter, compared the prior year. Construction sand and gravel grew by 5 percent year over year.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an estimated 744 metric tons of construction aggregates were produced and shipped for consumption in the United States in the third quarter of 2019 – an increase of 8 percent compared with that of the third quarter of 2018. The estimated production for consumption in the first nine months of 2019 was 1.87 billion tons, an increase of 6 percent compared with that of the same period of 2018.

These estimates are based on information reported to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on its quarterly sample survey by construction aggregates producers.

Crushed stone production

An estimated 446 million metric tons of crushed stone was produced and shipped for consumption in the United States in the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 9 percent compared with that of the third quarter of 2018. The estimated production for consumption in the first nine months of 2019 was 1.14 billion metric tons, an increase of 8 percent compared with that of the same period of 2018.

The estimated production for consumption of crushed stone in the third quarter of 2019 increased in seven of the nine geographic divisions compared with that sold or used in the third quarter of 2018. The five leading states were, in descending order of production for consumption, Texas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Florida. Their combined total production for consumption in the first nine months of 2019 was 380 million metric tons, an increase of 10 percent compared with that of the same period of 2018 and represented 33 percent of the U.S. total.

Sand and gravel production

The estimated U.S. output of construction sand and gravel produced and shipped for consumption in the third quarter of 2019 was 298 million metric tons, an increase of 5 percent compared with that of the third quarter of 2018. The estimated production for consumption in the first nine months of 2019 was 727 million metric tons, an increase of 3 percent compared with that of the same period of 2018.

The estimated production for consumption of construction sand and gravel in the third quarter of 2019 increased in seven of the nine geographic divisions compared with that sold or used in the third quarter of 2018. The five leading states were, in descending order of production for consumption, California, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, and Washington. Their combined total production for consumption in the first nine months of 2019 was 261 million, an increase of 3 percent compared with that of the same period of 2018 and represented 36 percent of the U.S. total.

Portland cement consumption

Portland (including blended) cement consumption increased by 7 percent in the third quarter of 2019 compared with that of the third quarter of 2018. Consumption in the first nine months of 2019 increased by 4 percent compared with that of the same period of 2018. This information was obtained from the USGS monthly survey of U.S. cement producers.

Typically, large changes can be attributed to the opening or closing of an operation, weather, or an external force that only the company or one of its operations experienced in that quarter. Previously reported data are occasionally revised, and the estimated quantities for the prior quarters are then recalculated. The latest release of the quarterly Mineral Industry Surveys contains the most recent estimated totals and supersedes previously published reports.

Glenwood Springs uses tax dollars to fight quarry

Glenwood springs creates a “war chest” to fight quarry expansion.

The city of Glenwood Springs, Colo., allocated $250,000 toward its effort to prevent the expansion of a local quarry and set aside another $1 million in a reserve war chest, according to The Colorado Sun.

The funding represents the first time the city has developed a public affairs campaign against a local business, and the newspaper reports it did so with the unanimous support of council members, trustees, and commissioners representing the county commission as well as eight local communities.

At issue is Rocky Mountain Resources’ request to expand its Mid-Continent Limestone Quarry from 15.7 acres to 447 acres. Currently, it operates seasonal operations and can produce up to 60,000 tons of limestone per year. It is seeking a federal permit from the Bureau of Land Management to allow it to produce year-round with annual tonnages up to 5 million. It is asking for permission to use up to 30 semi trucks, each making 15 to 20 daily roundtrips between the operation and a rail yard.

“I don’t think citizens have a problem with us spending their money on health and safety issues for things that are a threat to our town,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes told The Colorado Sun. “And this proposal, this is a 100-percent threat to our town. It’s a threat to everything we are.”

TCEQ approves air quality permit for Vulcan operation

Vulcan’s proposed operation in Comal County, Texas, moved one step closer to reality.

Vulcan Material Co.’s plans for a 1,500-acre limestone quarry in Comal County took another step forward, according to a report in the San Antonio Business Journal. All three commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved the operator’s air permit following an earlier decision by an administrative law judge that particulate matter and crystalline silica released by the operation would not exceed state limits.

The quarry has faced several challenges. An opposition group, Friends of Dry Comal Creek, has opposed the quarry and told the San Antonio Business Journal that it plans to file a motion requesting TCEQ to reconsider its decision. In addition, State Rep. Kyle Biedermann sent a policy analyst to permit hearings to read a letter into the record. The letter asked for the TCEQ to impose tighter standards on aggregate producers, claiming that current standards don’t protect public health, the environment, or local acquifers.