Cemex plans sand and gravel operations

Cemex plans sand and gravel operations
Published: 02 May 2006

Cemex is moving forward on its sand and gravel mine planned in Soledad Canyon, California, even as Santa Clarita officials continue their US$6m fight against it.  Cemex expects to begin operating in the canyon in 2008 and could mine about 70Mt of sand and gravel over the next 20 years, with up to 600 trucks a day coming in and out.  "We fully expect to continue the planning process and start the operations within the next two years," said Susana Duarte, a Cemex spokeswoman. 
 
 In the first decade, 2Mt could be mined each year, ramping up to 4Mta to 5Mta over the decade.
 
Santa Clarita officials say Cemex’s proposal amounts to 10 times the level of historic mining in the area. The company should extract no more than 300,000t a year, they say. But they, and US Rep "Buck" McKeon, continue to remain quiet about their ongoing dialogue with Cemex. 
 
"Within the immediate future we will be bringing forth new information enlightening the public on how we’re progressing on the matter - or not progressing," Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar said.  Cemex would mine 177 acres on the southern slope of a ridge just off Soledad Canyon Road - about a 1/4-mile-long stretch - east of the Antelope Valley Freeway, and facing away from it. The property is a mile from the nearest residential neighborhood. 
 
A crew of about 40 workers would blast, excavate, crush, screen and process the materials from 5 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday. Detonations would cease between 7 pm and 7 am. Cemex would post public notices in local newspapers and online before blasting. 
 
Sand and gravel would be trucked to asphalt and ready-mix batch plants where it would be mixed with cement to make concrete. Six hundred trucks - making up to 1200 trips a day - would be allowed to visit the mine. Truck traffic would be restricted during peak hours to eight trucks in the morning, 20 at night. 
 
The county had rejected the mine, but conceded when Cemex filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2002. County supervisors granted the mining permit in June 2004 under a court-approved consent decree. The decree was upheld in February in spite of the city’s appeal. Weapons in the city’s arsenal to scale down the project include four lawsuits, hiring lobbyists and buying 906 acres including land over the mineral deposits. 
 
Court rulings have favored Cemex and the federal government, but city officials have not folded; they hope to annex the property. Even if the city annexes the land, the county is still the lead permitting agency unless errors were made along the way.  Under the terms of the consent decree, Cemex would pay for road improvements and restoring the hillsides. An impartial monitor would be allowed onsite and a community advisory committee be formed. Cemex hjas also agreed to spend more than US$2 million to benefit the community. 
 
 "Adding 25 miles to the haul doubles the price of the aggregate," said Susan Kohler, a senior geologist with the California Geological Survey. The agency is updating its 50-year supply-demand forecast, but its 2000 report showed supplies in the San Fernando Valley would be depleted in five years. Aggregate from the mine would be destined for greater Los Angeles. 
 
A local businessman puts it this way: "If we don’t have a plant in Santa Clarita, the ready-mix has to come in from Irwindale. The cost is so huge, instead of buying concrete delivered to your patio at US$55 a cubic yard, we’re now paying US$85 to US$90 ... because we have to truck it so far," said Dick Greenberg, chief financial officer for CA Rasmussen, Inc.