Martin Marietta rock quarry planned(North Carolina) A Raleigh-based company plans to apply for state permits to open a rock quarry near the Lower Little River in northern Cumberland County.Martin Marietta Materials plans to lease a 700-acre tract off McCormick Bridge Road from the McCormick family and start mining for granite-like rock, which is relatively rare in the Sandhills. The rock would be crushed and sold for construction and highway projects.State environmental officials say if the quarry opens, they will monitor it closely to avoid environmental problems.REGION MINES It could take a year or longer to obtain the permits needed to open the quarry, said Paxton Badham, the vice president of land and environmental services for Martin Marietta Materials. The quarry could be in operation for 50 or 60 years and would be 300 to 400 feet deep. Once mining is completed, the pit will be allowed to fill with water.26th mine in countyThe new mine would be Cumberland County’s 26th. It would be the county’s only crushed rock mine. All the others are sand and gravel mines.The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners has already approved a conditional overlay district and permit for the quarry. Now the company must obtain a state mining permit and air-quality permit. It must also obtain a federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which will allow it to discharge water into the Little River.Badham said the company seeks quarry sites near towns and cities where a market for crushed stone exists. Because Fayetteville and Cumberland County are growing areas, the company was looking for large tracts that might accommodate such an operation. Good sites will have electricity as well as access to a highway and a water source.Once those tracts are identified, Badham said, crews from the company ”drill lots of holes in lots of places” to see what lies beneath the topsoil. Geologists might start with maps and then ask landowners’ permission to do exploratory drilling. Almost all types of construction require crushed rock, Badham said, so the company’s customers may be road builders, contractors or homeowners. The rock is used in asphalt and concrete production. It is also used for erosion control.The closest hard-rock quarry to Fayetteville is in Bunnlevel, Badham said. Opening a quarry in the county will make crushed rock less expensive for local customers, he added. Eventually, there will be a concrete and asphalt plant at the quarry.North Carolina ranks in the top 10 states in the country for the amount of crushed stone, sand and gravel produced here, according to the North Carolina Aggregates Association. In 2003, 63.5 million tons of crushed stone were quarried in the Tar Heel state, along with 9.1 million tons of sand and gravel.Fred Allen, the executive director of the association, said finding and quarrying the right supply of such rock, especially near cities, is tricky business.”It has got to be produced where Mother Nature puts it,” Allen said. ”We’ve got to quarry it where we find it.”Buffer requiredThe company must ensure a 350-foot buffer remains between the quarry and the center of the Little River. Fifty-foot berms would be required between the operation and McCormick Bridge Road.Water that seeps into the pit will be discharged into the Little River. That is why the company needs the federal discharge permit.”Basically the water we’re talking about is ground water and rain water we pump out of the pit,” Badham said.MonitoringIt is not water that is processed in some way by the company. Before discharging the water into the river, Badham said, it would be sent through a clarification pond. Sediments would settle out, he said, before the water flows into the river.Paul Rawls is the regional supervisor with the Surface Water Protection Section of the N.C. Division of Water Quality. He said the company will need to comply with its permits and operate and maintain the facility well to avoid environmental problems.It will need to make sure that machinery at the mine does not discharge oil and grease into water that will flow into the river, Rawls said.Operators of the quarry will also have to be aware of sediment or debris that could get flushed into the river, as well as the acidity and temperature of water they are discharging.”Anytime there is a point-source discharge, we are concerned about it,” Rawls said. ”We expect them to adhere to their permit if it is granted.”Before such a permit is granted, the application is sent to several state agencies for review, said Floyd Williams, a mining specialist with the N.C. Division of Land Resources. Those include the water resources, water quality and air quality divisions and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Sometimes transportation officials review a mine application. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is involved if wetlands will be affected. And the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also gets an opportunity to ask questions of an applicant.If enough concerns about a proposed mine are brought to the Division of Land Resources, Williams said, the director of the division may decide to hold a public hearing.Williams said in 2003-04, the division received 49 new applications for mining permits. Of those, one permit was denied.North Carolina has close to 950 permitted mine sites, Williams said. State law requires they be inspected once a year, but the Division of Land Resources does not have enough inspectors, Williams said, and sometimes cannot get around to all of them within the year.The state requires each mine to implement adequate erosion controls.Gerald Lee, the regional supervisor with Division of Land Resources, inspects mines in the area. He said he monitors each to make sure the operators are complying with permits.Sometimes sediments run off a mine site, said Lee. There is not a big problem with sediments settling in rivers and streams, Lee said. ”Most of the time, you do not have that problem because companies want to save all the water they can because they need it,” Lee said. Testing that Martin Marietta Materials is planning for next summer will give company officials a better idea of how large the footprint of the quarry will be. Badham estimated that it would cover about half of the allotted land, about 350 acres.Williams said his division rarely gets complaints about rock quarries. The complaints that come in typically concern noise and vibrations associated with blasting the rock with explosives. Each quarry must abide by rules for noise. Blasting can only take place during certain hours, and seismographs that monitor vibrations in the earth must be placed at the nearest occupied dwelling. In this case, the nearest house belongs to the McCormicks.Staff writer Nomee Landis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3595.Note:There are about 950 active mines in North Carolina. Of those, 116 are in the Cape Fear region. The following shows where those mines are and what is being quarried: Bladen County: 6 sand and gravel mines Columbus County: 9 sand and gravel, one unspecified Cumberland County: 25 sand and gravel Harnett County: 16 sand and gravel, 1 crushed stone Hoke County: 6 sand and gravel Lee County: 4 sand and gravel, 2 crushed stone and 3 brick clay Moore County: 11 sand and gravel, 3 pyrophillyte, 1 unspecified Robeson County: 18 sand and gravel Sampson County: 8 sand and gravel, 1 brick clay Scotland County: 2 sand and gravel Source: The N.C. Division of Land Resources
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