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UPDATE: Cemex appeals decision to cancel Soledad Canyon mining contracts

Posted: September 29, 2015 11:37 a.m.
Updated: September 29, 2015 4:30 p.m.
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Cemex has appealed last month’s Bureau of Land Management decision to cancel its mining contracts in Soledad Canyon, a spokeswoman for the BLM said Tuesday.

“The appeal was filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals, who now has jurisdiction over the case,” said Martha Maciel, deputy state director for the BLM’s office of communications.

The BLM officially notified Cemex on Aug. 28 that its Soledad Canyon mining contracts, held for more than 20 years but never acted on, had been canceled.

In a statement released Tuesday, Cemex accused the BLM of an “improper decision” and “arbitrary actions,” noting the company has devoted “considerable time” and money working with stakeholders over the past several years for a resolution to the dispute between the mining firm and the community opposed to the mine.

“The Soledad Canyon site contains high-quality aggregate reserves that will play a critical role in supplying a region with intensive and growing aggregate demand while avoiding the environmental impacts from long-distance transportation of aggregates to the region identified by the California Department of Conservation,” Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl wrote in an email.

“Cemex has filed a notice of appeal and sought a stay of the recent BLM decision and will vigorously pursue all of its rights with respect to the project, including a reversal of this improper decision,” Engdahl wrote, noting the company would not comment further.

Cemex had held two contracts, originally awarded in 1990, to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from hundreds of acres in Soledad Canyon northeast of Canyon Country.

The city of Santa Clarita and Cemex locked horns over the deal for years, with city officials saying the mine would pollute Santa Clarita Valley air, choke Highway 14 with truck traffic and compromise the quality of life in the valley.

More recently, the former enemies joined in a proposal to find a legislative solution to the deal by swapping federal land elsewhere in exchange for the Soledad Canyon property proposed for the mine.

When the bureau issued its cancellation notice Aug. 28, Cemex had 30 days to file an appeal.

“The appellant has the burden of showing that the decisions appealed from are in error,” read the BLM’s cancellation announcement.

News Cemex is fighting the BLM’s decision came as no surprise Tuesday to those who have battled to block the mine in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Filing an appeal would be the normal standard response I would expect from a company,” Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste said.

Congressman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, who two months ago called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny Cemex the permits it needs to mine, said news of the company appealing the BLM’s decision was expected.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise,” Knight said Tuesday.

“Now we have to wait and we see what the appeal actually says,” he said, pledging to post the appeal online once he gets a copy.

The congressman, whose district takes in all of the Santa Clarita Valley, urged U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July to deny Cemex the necessary permits it needs to begin mining.

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