With a legislative effort having failed to stop a proposed sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, Cemex Corp. is moving ahead with efforts to start work at the Santa Clarita Valley site.
Cemex USA, the U.S. division of the large Mexican cement company, has two, 10-year leases from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to mine up to 56 million tons of aggregate from the 493-acre property.
Cemex is seeking to have the bureau update its permits several months after a House bill that would have halted the mine did not get traction in the Senate before that body adjourned for the year.
The House bill, sponsored by now-retired Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, called on the BLM to cancel the contract with Cemex and sell 10,000 acres of land near Victorville and use the proceeds to compensate Cemex for the canceled contract. It passed in December.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who introduced the Senate bill in November, said she would continue to pursue legislation to stop the mine.
“I have not and will not stop working to protect the people of Santa Clarita from this mine,” Boxer said in a prepared statement. “We had such a heart-breaking setback last year, but I am still optimistic that we can get this done.”
Sara Engdahl, a Cemex spokeswoman, said that the company is evaluating and securing operating permits, a process that can take many months to complete, according to a story posted by the Santa Clarita Signal.
Santa Clarita officials, in an updated posted on the city's website, vowed to continue fighting the mine, citing noise, truck traffic and other problems. The city owns the surface property, but the BLM owns the mineral rights.
“Every avenue is currently being explored and pursued, with the goal of preventing the Cemex mining project,” City Council members wrote in the update.
The city contends that mining operations will take place up to 17 hours a day, six days a week, with blasting taking place twice a week for the first 10 years, and four times a week in the second 10 years. Shipping from the concrete batch plant may occur seven days a week depending on market conditions.
In early December, Santa Clarita officials sent a letter to the Obama Administration expressing their interest in donating the mine property to the federal government to serve as a gateway point for the recently designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, as the mine sits directly on the new monument's northwestern boundary. However, the mining dispute would first need to be resolved before the city could donate the property.