Michigan bill could streamline sand and gravel permits

Michigan sand and gravel producers could see streamlined permitting if S.B. 431 passes.

If passed, Michigan Senate Bill 431, sponsored by Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), would protect future development of the state’s natural resources by “prohibiting a local unit of government from preventing, prohibiting, or denying a permit, approval, or other authorization for the mining of natural resources if the natural resources were valuable and very serious consequences would not result from the extraction of the natural resources.”

Testifying before a Senate committee hearing, Kevin Cotter, general manager of Bay Aggregates, noted that some townships place unfair obstacles in the way of obtaining permits. The result is higher costs for road construction.

“We are left to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and unnecessary time pursuing permits to remove aggregate from land that we own,” Cotter says in WUOMFM report.

Opponents, including State Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch), claim that bill was written by and for gravel companies. He noted that nearly 100 residents attended the hearings. “If SB 431 were to pass, these individuals would effectively have no voice at all regarding gravel mining operations in their own community,” he says. “The fight is far from over, but I intend to see it through.”

Wetland to be considered in Martin Marietta quarry expansion

Martin Marietta is seeking expansion of its quarry in Granite Falls, Minn., with plans to expand the operation to the west side of its property. Preliminary evaluations show the need to consider a wetland that was not designated during its earlier 1992 permit review, the Independent reports.

Jolene Johnson, from the Yellow Medicine County planning and zoning office told county commissioners she anticipates a much more extensive permitting process than a typical zoning decision, the news outlet says. She explained that her office will work with Martin Marietta officials and the DNR to complete an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) which will, in turn, determine if an environmental impact study (EIS) is needed.

According to the Independent, Johnson told commissioners that the wetland at the quarry has already been impacted by man-made activities in the past. “It’s already been altered, she said. “That’s part of what has to be considered. There will be information and public comments as part of the EAW, and that will help to determine whether or not there’s a need for an EIS.”

If an EIS is needed, Johnson said it could delay plan for expansion.

Hunt-Rogers Quarry permit request delayed until April

In Fayetteville, Ark., the local Planning Board unanimously voted to table a permit request for the expansion of the Hunt-Rogers Quarry. The site has been in operation since 2004, and operating under as a grandfathered use following the passage of a 2006 county planning ordinance in that zones all unincorporated land in Washington County for agricultural or single-family residential use.

County Planning Director Nathan Crouch told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette that the permit will be on the planning board’s April 2 agenda. Hunt-Rogers is seeking to expand mining on its 535-acre parcel from about 50 acres to 241 acres. If approved, it would extend the life of the deposit from five to seven years to 40 to 50 years.

At the planning board’s Jan. 23 meeting, numerous area residents attended, with many voicing concern about blasting, noise, dust, and hazards due to truck traffic.

One board member suggested he was not comfortable approving the size of the expansion, either in times of size or duration, while another asked for the project to be shown a plan with phases of development and a timeline for expansion.

Athabasca Minerals to open Coffey Lake Public Pit

Athabasca Minerals Inc. (AMI) announced that the Province of Alberta issued it a disposition for the Coffey Lake Public Pit (Coffey Lake) and a surface material lease that allows for the extraction of sand and gravel. The authorization, given Jan. 13, enables AMI to commence with activities to open aggregate operations at Coffey Lake to the public.

The Coffey Lake Public Pit is located on 828 acres of land, 56 miles from Fort McMurray and 28 miles from Fort McKay in the heart of oil sands major industrial operations. Coffey Lake is the sequel to the province’s Susan Lake Public Pit which AMI operated and closed in 2019 after 20 years of operation. AMI’s pit management contract with the province for Coffey Lake is 15 years.

“We are pleased to proceed with opening the Coffey Lake Public Pit to serve the needs of local industry, infrastructure projects and contractors,” says CEO Robert Beekhuizen. “The annual demand for aggregates in the Ft. McMurray region is considerable, which past production from the Susan Lake Public Pit demonstrated over 20 years. Coffey Lake is able to satisfy this demand as an important supply source, as well as expand the availability of specialty products. We look forward to bringing Coffey Lake Public Pit into operation this year with best practices, creating economic benefit for the local community and demonstrating our commitment to environmental sustainability.”

AMI will begin with clearing and stripping activities immediately to achieve the goal of opening aggregate operations in the second or third quarter of this year. AMI has already awarded a clearing contract to Shott Earthworks Inc., a local Indigenous Fort McKay Contractor. 

For more information about Coffey Lake Public Pit, AMI has launched a website www.coffeylakepit.ca

Ash Grove Cement seeks shale exploration project

The exploration license would allow Ash Grove to extract 10,000 tons of shale for testing and construct a haul road to the test area. Photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash.

Through Jan. 3, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will take public comment on a draft environmental assessment for a shale-clay exploration project proposed by Ash Grove Cement Co. near Montana City.

According to The Monitor, the state DEQ received an amendment to Ash Grove’s Exploration License to extract a 10,000-ton bulk sample of shale for chemical testing. The site is above Ash Grove’s existing Clark Gulch Quarry just west of Montana City.

In addition, Ash Grove would construct a one-mile haul road to access the test pit area and would complete four drill holes in the area.

View the draft EA online at deq.mt.gov/Public/ea/hardrock.

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.”