Federal mine safety officials close part of Glenwood Springs quarry where rockslide occurred last week
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has shut down a major portion of the Glenwood Springs limestone quarry operated by Rocky Mountain Industrials following a major rockslide incident last week.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management Upper Colorado River District spokesman Eric Coulter said on Monday that a BLM geologist and inspectors from MSHA visited the site on Transfer Trail following the Jan. 18 incident to assess the situation.
No one was injured in the slide, in which a 200-foot section of the quarry highwall gave way and sent a mass of large rocks and dirt tumbling down to where several pieces of mining equipment were located.
“BLM continues to coordinate with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Colorado Division of Reclamation, and Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI),” Coulter said. “Safety and resource protection remain the top concerns for BLM.”
In response, MSHA issued a cease and desist order for operations on the production bench and highwall where the rockfall occurred, Coulter said.
The agencies will continue to assess and determine next steps, he said.
“We will keep the public informed of any changes to BLM management of permitted operations at the quarry,” Coulter said.
RMI representatives did not reply to a second request for comment on the incident placed Monday.
Meanwhile, the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance, which organized a few years ago in opposition to a major expansion proposed for the quarry, on Friday sent a formal letter to state and federal agencies requesting a full investigation into the incident. The group also asked that the mine be shut down, noting that the BLM has already issued a notice of noncompliance as the mine is operating outside its various permit approvals.
“There are obvious safety concerns at the quarry, both from further movement of collapsed material and from additional rockfall that could occur from the sharply overhanging edges,” Jeff Peterson, president of the Citizens’ Alliance, said in a news release.
The group’s letter cited BLM mining regulations that allow the agency to suspend mining operations without going through advance notice, if the operator is out of compliance or there is imminent danger to health, safety or the environment.
Further, the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act sets state-level rules requiring mine operators to “ensure the geotechnical stability of all slopes at a mine site,” the GSCA letter notes.
The BLM in late August 2022 issued a formal notice of noncompliance and order against RMI, saying it has been operating outside the scope of its approved mining plan for several years.
The noncompliance notice cited four violations, including one related to the highwall portion of the quarry not meeting the approved mining plan.
RMI recently submitted a second proposed mining modification plan to the BLM, after its first proposal was deemed incomplete. The BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office has until Feb. 6 to assess whether the new modification plan is complete.
Peterson said the rockslide changed the profile of the quarry enough that the new mining plan may already be obsolete.
“Mining operations should not be allowed to continue under these now-outdated site plans,” he said.
The Citizens’ Alliance is suing the BLM for allowing the quarry to continue to operate in spite of the noncompliance issues, which have allegedly been going on for several years.
RMI, after receiving a notice of violation from Garfield County related to other aspects of the mining operation, sued the county saying it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the mine. In June 2021, a district court ruled mostly in the county’s favor in that case, but the decision was appealed by RMI. The Colorado Court of Appeals was set to hear oral arguments in that case on Tuesday.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.