Limestone quarry expansion proposes use of electric-powered trucks
Expansion of a 36-year-old rock quarry north of Glenwood Springs along Transfer Trail would definitely come with a significant increase in semi truck trips to and from a proposed loadout facility on the Union Pacific rail line, representatives from the company that owns the quarry said Wednesday.
While they can’t quote specific numbers until a formal application is submitted to the Bureau of Land Management later this spring, Rocky Mountain Resources President Gregory Dangler said the operators are proposing to use new heavy electric-vehicle technology to do the hauling.
Doing so would cut down on both noise and pollution from the trucks, Dangler said in a phone interview with the Post Independent.
The steep downhill grade from the existing quarry to the U.S. 6 & 24 and Devereux Road access route should actually benefit the efficiency of electric battery-powered trucks, because they can generate a charge on the way down and have a full charge coming back up, he said.
“We have identified some vendors that can meet our industrial standards” Dangler said. “We have an informal commitment to equip our entire fleet, or as much as can be managed, with electric vehicles.”
“It’s triple the cost, but that’s a commitment we stand behind,” he said. “We do want to lead from the front.”
Dangler and company Vice President of Colorado Operations Bobby Wagner acknowledged that the forthcoming plan to expand and modernize Mid-Continent limestone quarry, if approved, will have impacts on the north Glenwood Springs area. That’s why they’ve been meeting with city and Garfield County officials, and groups like the chamber and service organizations to share as much advance information as they can.
The tentative plan, as outlined in a project information flier that has been shared around town and reported in the Post Independent on Wednesday, calls for a major increase in limestone production at the quarry that’s expected to boost the workforce from five full-time employees now to between 40 and 50.
The application for a modification of RMR’s operation plan will be reviewed by the area BLM office and will likely require some level of county and city permitting.
BLM spokesman David Boyd said RMR holds 41 mining claims on 820 acres, but it is currently only permitted to operate on six claims covering about 20 acres.
RMR acquired the quarry from CalX Minerals in October of 2016, after CalX resurrected quarry operations in about 2012. The quarry had been closed since 1992 when original owner Mid-Continent Resources closed it after its Coal Basin mines near Redstone shut down.
The proposal is likely to raise some serious concerns among neighbors of the immediate area, as well as operators of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and the city, which is in the middle of a major EPA Area-Wide redevelopment study. A major focal point of that study is the north Glenwood Springs area, including another long-idled former quarry that once was owned by Mid-Continent, called the Holly Quarry. The Caverns now owns that parcel.
City Councilman Rick Voorhees, who represents the Ward 2 neighborhood that stands to be heavily impacted by the proposal, said City Council has been advised not to comment on the plans until they are made official through the BLM process. But they are fully aware of the plans, he said.
“We need to wait until we see a formal proposal before we can speak to it, and with the city’s voice,” Voorhees said, also acknowledging that there are serious neighborhood concerns about the plans.
Dangler said the company fully intends to work through and address those concerns as part of the process. In addition to whatever public meetings the BLM would schedule as part of the formal review process, he said the company also plans to host public meetings to explain their plans.
“We want to present a proposal that’s as agreeable as possible, and we have been very thoughtful in how we’ve gone about that,” he said.
In terms of the truck traffic, possible steps to avoid conflicts could be to avoid rush hour times and follow a suggested trucking route that would have the least impact, he said.
The limestone mined at the quarry is some of the highest-quality rock that can be found, Wagner said. Mid-Continent first started mining limestone at another site farther up Transfer Trail, called the Marblehead Quarry, in the 1950s, he said.
Since taking over the Mid-Continent Quarry, Dangler said RMR has maintained the previously permitted production levels while focusing on some site improvements.
“It really needed some TLC to take it to the next level,” Dangler said. That next level involves some higher-end markets for the rock, which can be used for a variety of industrial and even food-grade applications, he said.
The quarry is currently permitted for up to half a million tons a year, but even that production level depends on available markets, he added. The mining plan also allows for up to 20 truckloads per day.
According to the information flier that has been circulating, the proposal calls for a “top-down” quarrying method on the hillside behind Iron Mountain. Plans are to limit visibility of the mined area, and to reclaim the slopes and cliffs that would be disturbed, according to the preliminary proposal.
The BLM’s Boyd said that, once received, the application would be reviewed internally and a determination made of what type of analysis will be necessary under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. That could involve an environmental assessment, as was done with the recent Grand Avenue Bridge project, or a more extensive environmental impact statement, depending on the scope of the planned expansion, he said.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon may be closed intermittently Wednesday through the weekend, as highway crews break down and remove boulders and patch potholes caused by Tuesday’s rock slide.