Tuesday letters: quarry, population ceiling
Who’s advising RMI?
Editor’s note: An exception was made for the length of this letter.
Recent newspaper articles indicate that Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI) is touting the idea that up to 100 high-paying jobs will be provided with their mine expansion plan in Glenwood Springs. Apparently there is a recent company name change from the former company name of Rocky Mountain Resources. A new approach to their business plan? Anyway, with some experience in mining operations, I find it difficult to account for 100 jobs in the proposed mining scheme. Is RMI generous enough to offer high-paying jobs for “leaning on a shovel?” Maybe the employment projection includes high-paying (out-of-town) desk jobs and executive positions. Who knows?
RMI is already operating out of compliance with the Mining Law of 1872 by mining and selling “non-locatable” minerals such as dolomite and low-grade limestone. Their proposed tactic is apparently to beg forgiveness and then urge the BLM to grant retroactive status in what is known as the “Common Varieties Act.” Can RMI achieve financial viability without circumventing the Mining Law of 1872 and including “non-locatable” rock in the product mix?
RMI seems to be staking its market strategy on Front Range customers. This customer base would include cement manufacturing if only chemical grade limestone is considered. The Mining Law of 1872 provides a legal provision for mining and selling chemical grade (high calcium) limestone. High calcium limestone is needed to make quality cement. There are three cement plants in Colorado, and they are all located in the Front Range. All three plants own captive quarries virtually in their backyards. Cement manufacturing requires low-cost production and tight quality control of the rock source to remain competitive. Would the Colorado plants be interested in importing chemical grade limestone with the additional cost of rail shipment and the danger of variable quality? Additionally, the market for chemical grade limestone used as methane abatement (rock dust) in underground coal mines is disappearing. So is the market for high calcium limestone in Colorado actually limited? Would RMI just end up trying to sell most of this product as construction rock along with dolomite and low-grade limestone? I’m not sure if the Mining Law of 1872 was intended for this use.
If RMI is, in fact, allowed to bypass the scope and intent of the Mining Law of 1872, they would have dolomite and low-grade limestone available for construction rock and aggregate. But where would they sell it? The Front Range rock and aggregate industry is already dominated by large, low-cost producers. Would these established producers be willing to share a piece of the pie in their hometown marketplace with an out-of-town competitor? This would also be a competitor who is hamstrung with the additional cost burden of rail shipments? RMI will need a huge influx of outside investment to proceed. But can they find investors willing to participate in a venture with enormous public opposition and uncertainties on a return on investment?
Among other flaws, RMI’s production proposal at the Glenwood site states the need to haul 320-450 trucks per day from the mine to the rail loadout. With some simple math and some knowledge of the circumstances, this projection seems to be grossly understated, if the stated production target is to be achieved. With equipment breakdowns, interruptions in haul sequence, bad weather conditions and several other limiting factors, you can only cram so much through a production bottleneck. Is RMI planning on overloading trucks, exceeding speed limits and exceeding prescribed hours of operation in achieving the production goal? Just asking questions here.
Stephen A. Onorofskie
MS mining engineering
Glenwood needs a population ceiling
How lucky we are to live in such a cool place. We have so much to be thankful for.
A friend of mine came up with this great idea. To maintain our quality of life in Glenwood, we must come up with a population ceiling (maximum people). A ceiling that would be voted upon. Once a number is reached, no new housing developments would be allowed. Critical materials and replacements would be exempt.
We can do this because we have a great economy. Tourism, thriving small businesses, restaurants, hotels, motels, car dealerships, three big box stores, etc. We are not dependent upon growth.
We want to take back our town. Left up to City Council and the 2% special development interest, we will be elbow to elbow, bumper to bumper, like the Hot Springs pool in summer. A population ceiling would be a big step, but it would be great being one of the only towns in the U.S. that has said, “Enough is enough. We are full.”
Our kids and future generations would be so proud of us. We’d be heroes.
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