Rockslide inside RMI’s Glenwood Springs quarry being investigated
Federal land and mine safety officials are looking into the cause of a large rockslide that occurred within Rocky Mountain Industrials’ Mid-Continent limestone quarry north of Glenwood Springs on Wednesday.
“RMI did notify us, and we are aware of the rockfall that occurred there,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management Upper Colorado River District spokesman Eric Coulter said on Thursday.
There were no injuries reported. The slide reportedly occurred around 3:30 p.m., and it was unknown if operations were suspended as a result of the incident.
RMI officials were not immediately available for comment.
“It’s really early and there are a lot of unknowns at this time,” Coulter said. “We are currently working with RMI to look at the issues and what happened out there.”
He said the slide was estimated at about 200 feet. The slide area, located above the bench that’s just above the processing facility, was visible from the various vantage points in West Glenwood Springs and along Transfer Trail Road where the quarry can be seen.
“We will continue to coordinate with RMI on the current situation, Coulter said, adding that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has also been contacted.
The incident comes as RMI has, for a second time, submitted a modified mining plan to the BLM on Jan. 6. The BLM has 30 days to review that plan and determine if the mine can continue operations.
The BLM in late August 2022 issued a formal notice of noncompliance and order against the rock quarry operators, saying it has been operating outside the scope of its approved mining plan for several years.
Critics of the quarry, for which RMI proposed a highly controversial major expansion several years ago that also remains under review by the BLM, have argued for years that the quarry has been in violation of both its BLM and Garfield County permits.
The Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance has taken legal action against the BLM for allowing the quarry to continue to operate illegally.
And RMI, after receiving a notice of violation from Garfield County, has sued Garfield 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 is set to hear oral arguments in that case on Tuesday.
The BLM’s noncompliance order cites four violations at the quarry, including that:
- The quarry mill bench and lower access road are not within the authorized 15.9-acre area approved in a 1989 modified plan of operations;
- The current highwall portion of the quarry does not comply with the approved plan;
- Stormwater structures have been constructed outside the approved area;
- The mill bench topsoil pile is inadequate for future site reclamation and not properly graded.
The latest submission from RMI is being considered a major plan modification, subject to a more intensive review process including opportunities for public comment.
“The BLM is caught between meeting timelines laid out in its mining regulations and the need for what it deems to be a complete submission,” the Citizens’ Alliance said in a Jan. 13 newsletter.
“In the meantime, RMI continues to operate the limestone quarry, although it is barred from conducting any rock blasting during the winter months,” the Alliance’s newsletter also states.
Garfield County issued a mining permit that barred most mining operations through the winter and early spring, from Dec. 15 to April 15, it notes. However, the BLM has been granting exceptions since 2009 that allow all operations to continue through that stretch of time, except for blasting, the newsletter states.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
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