The story of international materials producer CEMEX’s efforts to open a new gravel/cement mine in the Santa Clarita valley faces new challenges from both federal and state agencies.
The proposed mine represents efforts to add capacity to the Mexican cement giant’s U.S. aggregate production facilities. The conflict between Santa Clarita residents and the company has, for 20 years, involved city, state and federal government agencies.
Most recently, the plan has drawn a challenge from of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Both are dealing with the uncertainty about Cemex ever mining in Soledad Canyon. SWRCB, last month, announced a decision to put the company’s application for water on hold, according to the letter sent to State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita. Eileen Sobeck, SWRCB executive director, explaining the board’s decision said:
“The State Water Board notified Cemex on Nov. 20, 2019, that its water right application has been moved from a pending status to a hold status until a final decision is reached on Cemex’s contracts for mineral materials, due to the uncertainty of the project’s viability and the State Water Board’s limited staff resources.”
This means that the State Water Board is suspending all staff processing efforts, including review or generation of work products, until the Cemex litigation against the federal government has been fully resolved by the courts.”
The SWRCB letter arrived a day after officials with the federal Bureau of Land Management announced Cemex owes the BLM more than $25 million for unpaid annual payments because it hadn’t started producing aggregate and cement.
The BLM decision states: “Cemex has a contractual and legal obligation to produce material or to make annual payments in lieu of production… Cemex’s failure to comply with the terms and conditions of producing mineral material or making timely in lieu payments is contrary to the terms of the contract and in violation of federal regulation.”
The proposed mining project in Santa Clarita involves the surface mining of 56 million tons of aggregate on a 460-acre site at the city’s eastern boundary, east of the Antelope Valley Freeway. While the city owns the surface property, the BLM claims the minerals beneath it and has provided two 10-year leases to CEMEX to mine the rock under the cityowned land. These leases contain the provisions about payment “in lieu of production,” which is why BLM is pursuing the money.
With no apparent resolution in sight and no new source of aggregate and cement for the construction industry anywhere near the still-growing northern boundary of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.