Critical Minerals Bill Includes Aggregates
A bill to ease permitting for domestic mines providing strategic and critical minerals, which includes aggregates used in infrastructure projects, advanced in Congress despite partisan objections, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).
The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015, H.R. 1937, introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) was approved by a vote of 23-14 on July 9 by the House Natural Resources Committee. In the past, members of the U.S. House of Representatives have criticized similar bills for going beyond what they consider to be critical minerals such as rare earth minerals used in electronics.
The legislation would recognize that aggregates are strategic and critical minerals in the eyes of the government and essential to construction, whether pavement (horizontal construction) or buildings and dams (vertical construction).
“We appreciate that this legislation includes the aggregates imperative to infrastructure as ‘critical and strategic.’ Construction or reconstruction of bridges, roads, highways, ports and runways can’t proceed without access to these essential natural resources,” said NSSGA Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Pam Whitted.
Martin Marietta Asphalt Plant Gets Go-Ahead
A Martin Marietta Materials asphalt plant in Concord, N.C., received its special-use permit allowing it to lease 10.8 acres of industrial property to Granite Contracting for an asphalt plant currently located in South Carolina.
The Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting on June 16 approved the permit but added two extra conditions – that Martin Marietta would agree to preserve tree cover along its eastern property line, which abuts the neighborhood, and that it would limit its operating hours to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. unless otherwise required by an NCDOT contract.
Local residents had protested against the permit.
Proposed Cemex Quarry Under Fire from California Officials
Congressman Steve Knight (R-Calif.) has called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny Cemex the permits it needs to mine in Soledad Canyon, Calif., according to a report in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. The congressman wrote a letter to Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general and chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, urging the agency to deny Cemex the permits. Democratic Congressional peers Judy Chu, (D-Pasadena) and Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) also signed onto the letter.
“Cemex has failed to comply with state and federal law and must not be permitted to move forward with a mine in Soledad Canyon,” Knight said. “This message makes this abundantly clear, and I am excited that my colleagues are joining me in reaffirming this fact.”
The Bureau of Land Management issued two 10-year contracts in March 1990 to mine 56 million tons of sand and gravel from the proposed mine site in Soledad Canyon.
Santa Clarita city officials have been battling the plan since at least 2002, stating a mine of that magnitude would choke Highway 14 with truck traffic and compromise air quality throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
The letter is the latest in a long correspondence between various elected officials, government agencies and stakeholders, dating back to Rep. Knight’s tenure as a California State Senator, according to KHTS radio. It reiterates the concerns of Jim Kenna, California state director of the Bureau of Land Management, who has expressed doubts that Cemex can proceed with the development.
According to SCVTV news, Kenna sent a letter to the mining company’s president of U.S. operations in March stating that canceling Cemex’s long-held contracts “is now legally viable.” It also laid out specific reasons for the Army Corps of Engineers to deny Cemex a permit, such as its failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and the negative effects the mine would have on local protected species.
“I will explore and exhaust every available avenue to prevent this mine and the devastating effects it will have on our community,” Knight said.