North / South America
Lafarge expansion approved
Aug, 02 2012
(Canada) -- Lafarge Canada is one step closer to a major expansion and refurbishment of its Exshaw cement plant that could reach $500 million after it received a key approval from the MD of Bighorn on Thursday, July 26.
Bighorn’s planning commission voted unanimously to approve the project last week, after considering further input from administration and Lafarge officials at the second commission meeting in eight days.
It also heard from a concerned local business owner, Al Doll, who urged the MD and the company to do more to insure roads beyond the plant site are swept frequently to control dust in the community that is generated by plant-related traffic.
The approval comes with a long list of conditions, including ones beyond what was first proposed to deal with dust monitoring and construction noise from the plant.
On the other hand, a proposed condition that would have required the company to cover stockpiles to control dust was reworded, to specify the company must control dust emissions from stockpiles but not necessarily cover those piles.
The expansion will allow for about a 62 per cent increase in capacity at the plant — something that will ultimately also mean longer hours of operation for the three quarries Lafarge operates in the area, including the limestone one it operates closest to Exshaw and the existing plant.
The expansion will bring an increase in both truck traffic on Hwy. 1A and railcar traffic crossing the highway and access road to south Exshaw. It will also add permanent jobs to the plant and quarries.
The construction labour force for the expansion is expected to peak at more than 300, with work starting this fall and ramping up over time. The company expects to finish the project in spring 2015.
Building permits must still be granted for the various stages of the expansion, and won’t be forthcoming until the planning commission and the Bighorn development officer review a yet-to-be-submitted construction management plan.
Given the size and scope of the project, commission members made it clear they want to review the plan directly, rather than have it reviewed only by staff, and made that a condition of the approval.
After approving the expansion, commission members also supported a motion from Exshaw-area councillor Paul Ryan calling for a review of the need for development permits for Lafarge’s quarries.
Two of its quarries, including the limestone quarry at Exshaw and a quarry to the east near Yamnuska, don’t even have development permits, because they were operating prior to the need for development permits for mining activity in Bighorn.
The company does have a permit for its quarry at Seebe, the newest of its three quarries.
Staff have been asked to report back to the commission on the permits issue in the next 90 days.
Quarry operations are expected to ramp up in 2015 once the plant expansion is complete.
Planner and development officer Tracy Woitenko said the size of Lafarge’s quarries isn’t expected to change, though the company will likely extend its daily operations in the quarries to between 16 and 20 hours a day to feed the expanded plant.
Lafarge officials see the project as one that will improve the plant’s performance environmentally.
Plant manager Heinz Knopfel focused on the fact the project will replace gravel-bed stack filters with state-of-the-art technology that will reduce dust emissions from the plant.
Neither Knopfel nor Larfarge regional vice-president Ron Braun were enthusiastic about the idea of entirely enclosed loading areas for the plant, with Knopfel telling the commission he’s not aware of any such facilities in North America.
Current loading areas are covered on the sides and above, but not with entrance doors.
It’s also not practical, Braun noted, for a 25-car rail spur to be covered with a roof.
Efforts to control fugitive dust include extensive use of water trucks, Knopfel said.
That practice, however, creates another problem, according to Doll, who operates Heart Mountain Store in the community.
Doll said trucks leaving the plant site do so with significant mud on their tires, particularly at wetter times of the year. That mud falls off on roads, then dries, and then turns into dust when driven over by other trucks, Doll told the commission.
He said he now changes furnace filters in his highway-frontage business once a month due to dust buildup.
While Doll said he’s not sure if mud on roads beyond the plant site is a Lafarge issue, an MD issue or an Alberta Transportation issue, it needs to be addressed with more frequent sweeping of Hwy. 1A and also roads in Exshaw.
“It just creates a dust cloud,” Doll said of the material that builds up on Hwy. 1A.
He said dust coming from the roads is getting worse rather than better. Doll has operated the store for more than 18 years.
Doll differs from data supplied in graph form by Lafarge, which suggest the concentrations of dust particles in the air at Exshaw have actually declined substantially or remained virtually the same in the last few years, depending on the size of the particles.
Doll also called on the company to have an employee who resides in the community to look after community relations. That person, he said, needs to be someone who can quickly address issues such as dust spikes.
Lafarge is looking at ways to enhance communication with the public during construction of the expanded plant with a local website. It also wants to hear from Exshaw community members on what information they want about the expansion project, said Michelle Gurney, who is assisting the company with its communications efforts.
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