Lehigh’s Union bridge wants new quarry start-up

Lehigh’s Union bridge wants new quarry start-up
Published: 18 January 2005

Almost 10 years after the Lehigh Cement received a mining permit from the state, the company wants to begin quarrying in earnest at its 700-acre tract south of New Windsor - provoking a flurry of activity from a local residents action group, formed 18 years ago to deal with mining issues in the area. Lehigh had not planned to mine there for another 10 years, said George E. Maloney, chairman and charter member of the New Windsor Community Action Project. Then, at a Dec. 14 meeting, he said he learned that a subcontractor for Lehigh has applied to the Maryland Department of the Environment for a permit to install a 400tph rock crusher at the site.

Peter Lukas, plant manager at Union Bridge, said the company believes there is enough rock at its Union Bridge quarry to supply its York plant for another 10 years. But the limestone in New Windsor is extraordinarily white, because of a low iron content, and is needed now at the company’s plant.

"We want to start mining in our New Windsor quarry ... sometime this year," Lukas said last week. The limestone is for the white cement made at York, which is used for decorative surfaces and colored cements, and valued in highway work for its high reflectivity.

In fact, Lukas said, the installation of the $260m state-of-the art kiln at Union Bridge was predicated upon eventually mining at New Windsor. The company applied in 1991 and received its mining permit for New Windsor in 1996.

The basic plan is to reduce the limestone in New Windsor from boulders to rocks 3 inches to 5 inches in diameter. The rocks would then be hauled by dump trucks along roads south of New Windsor, to Westminster and on to Lehigh’s White Cement Division in York. But Lukas said Lehigh might change some aspects of the plan within the next four to eight weeks, and if it does the company would have to reapply for permitting.

 "We would have a big plant and a big mess like they have over there in Union Bridge," said George Maloney recently. "We’ll do anything in our power to stop that crusher from coming in. This whole thing is a shock to us," Maloney said. "They said they wouldn’t do much, except to keep the permit, until about 2015, that they had enough in Union Bridge to keep going to 10 years or so."

Lukas agreed. Lehigh has been taking 15,000t to 30,000t a year from New Windsor "just to keep the permit alive," he said. Because of the new demand from York, "we want to start mining in that quarry." He said that he foresees the mining of 100,000t to 200,000t a year, although not immediately. He said a time frame has not been decided yet.

 When the Union Bridge quarry runs out of limestone in 10 years or so, Lukas said he foresees mining 4Mta at New Windsor. As for the current application, he said Lehigh might decide that, rather than have the entire operation run by a contractor, the company could run the New Windsor quarry from Union Bridge, about 10 miles away, or share the work with the contractors.

Jim Slater, Carroll County’s environmental compliance officer, said the county has no legal say in the matter. "They have had a mining permit at the site for a very long time," Slater said. "It is zoned for a quarry. Lehigh’s intent is to crush rock. They are applying to MDE for air-quality permits because it generates dust. There have been a lot of questions from New Windsor."

But Lukas said remedies are under way at the sources, the kiln stack and the craneway - a large, 1950s-era storage area with openings for ventilation that is to be replaced as part of an additional $40m to $60m in improvements planned at Union Bridge. The new kiln there has the largest capacity on the continent, capable of producing up to about 6,500tpd clinker, Lukas said. It must be fed limestone, and Lehigh, a subsidiary of Heidelberg Zement AG of Germany, owns 720 acres of it at the quarry site.