Mini-Soledad mine on table

first_imgSANTA CLARITA — The U.S. Forest Service is considering a proposal to mine 3 million tons of a mineral used by the building industry, a much smaller project than the giant Cemex quarry planned nearby, but one the city of Santa Clarita also opposes. The mine, expecting an annual output that would be six times more than what the city calls acceptable “historic levels,” is down the road from the 56.1-million-ton Cemex sand and gravel mine the city has spent $6 million battling. Both operations are planned outside city limits — though the city is trying to annex Cemex’s property — and the head of Soledad Quarry LLC, soon to be known as Soledad Enviromineral LLC, likens his company as David to Cemex’s Goliath. “We’re sort of a mom-and-pop store here that gets run over by the Wal-Mart down the street,” said Henry Fritzsche, general manager of Soledad Quarry. His company plans to extract 150,000 tons of anorthosite a year from a trio of parcels spanning five acres in a total claim of 320 acres within the Angeles National Forest. The operation would continue for 20 years. By contrast, Cemex proposes mining 2 million tons a year for 10 years, ramping up to 4 million to 5 million tons a year over the next decade. Its 177-acre property lies on the southern slope of a ridge just off Soledad Canyon Road, east of the Antelope Valley Freeway (14), a mile from the nearest residential neighborhood. Anorthosite is a highly absorbent chalky white material, used for paint pigment and drywall filler, and to absorb horse litter in corrals. The mine would be at the junction of Soledad Canyon Road and Agua Dulce Canyon Road. About a year ago the Santa Clarita City Council took its stand on the Soledad mine, linking it with Cemex’s proposal, though the two are not connected by ownership. “The city took a position opposed to the mining proposal because of cumulative effect of mining in that area,” said Michael Murphy, the city’s intergovernment relations officer. He noted that no final decision has been made on the scope of Cemex’s proposal, which was the target of legislation introduced May 25 in Congress by U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. “If Cemex goes forward at full levels, and you add the Cemex mine on top of (Soledad) you have a huge cumulative effect,” Murphy said. “If the Cemex mine is at historical levels of mining, the city might have a different perspective.” While the city has filed several lawsuits against Cemex’s mine, Fritzsche said none has been filed against his company. Cemex officials said they hope to begin operating in the canyon in 2008. The area has been mined since the 1950s. Fritzsche hopes to begin operating in September, but Forest Service officials told him approvals could take a year from when the final application is received. After a June 6 meeting with Forest Service officials, the terms continue to be hammered out. Clem Lagrosa, who is in charge of resources and land management planning for the Forest Service, said no timeline will be set for environmental review or public meetings until a clear operation plan is submitted. The mining plan has undergone several permutations under different operators, but the last permit expired in 2000. The county would need to sign off on a mining permit and a reclamation plan. The operation would entail blasting four times a year — 40,000 tons at a time, with two- or three-month buffers in between sessions, Fritzsche said. The open-pit placer mine would operate weekdays, but he said trucking on Soledad Canyon Road would be confined to nonpeak hours. About 25 trucks a day would come in and out of the Soledad Quarry, versus up to 600 trucks a day from the Cemex mine. Fritzsche said he tried to find alternatives to the seemingly necessary Santa Clara River crossing. He says he is a “green person” and has offered to pay $1.5 million over the life of the 20-year mining lease to improve the area. “I want to put three to four acres of riverbed I purchased into something that will be beneficial to the environment,” he said. “I am tired of having people treat me like the enemy.” Mining is an approved activity in the Angeles National Forest. Wilderness acts protecting certain areas have been filed periodically, and other acts regulate mining operations. Mining is allowed if mining claims were filed prior to sections being designated as wilderness, Lagrosa said. While three Angeles Forest areas are designated as wilderness, none is in the Santa Clara/Mojave Rivers Ranger District in Santa Clarita. — Judy O’Rourke, (661) 257-5255 [email protected] AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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