Sonora, CA — After a public hearing today the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deny an appeal that Blue Mountain Minerals perform an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before expanding their agricultural fill area by 27 acres.
The Central Sierra Environmental Resources Council (CSERC) appeal was publicly supported at the meeting by three individuals, including Executive Director John Buckley. They stated an appeal was needed because the expansion was significant enough to warrant an EIR.
The public hearing in the Supervisors Meeting room on was packed with supporters of Blue Minerals; 15 individuals spoke against requiring an EIR. Carey Haughy, a Geologist with Blue Mountain Minerals, said, “We’re not proposing any operational changes. There will be no increase in the amount of material mined, the tons of production, the operating hours, highway, trucks or traffic.”
Among the public comments in favor; several were employees, two were supportive property owners neighboring the mine, Chief Executive Officer of the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce Mike Ayala, President of the Tuolumne County Business Council Darrell Slocum, and Business Council Director Ron Kopf. In addition Black Oak Casino Resort General Manager Ron Patel spoke in favor, as a “business manager of a highly regulated industry,” stating he was confident that Blue Mountain Minerals honestly cares about doing the right thing and following all regulations.
Sonora Mayor Hank Russel also spoke in favor of Blue Mountain Minerals being allowed to expand saying, “I don’t think there is any question about the ethics or the community responsibility of Blue Mountain Minerals. They are an excellent organization and they do things right. What concerns me is the opposition. It is the same opposition that delayed Lowes, and the Walmart expansion that is in court right now. They seem to be a group that doesn’t want progress.”
John Buckley countered later, that in the past 26 years of evaluating “every single project that has come up,” his group CSCERC has litigated three projects in the County.
Supervisor Randy Hanvelt, who is in favor of the project, noted it would take around 50 years to restore the 27 acres of oak trees that will be cut down. Whereas Hanvelt said the much larger area that burned in the Rim Fire won’t recover for over 200 years.
Supervisor Sherri Brennan said, “California is one of the most environmentally heavily regulated states in the union. We need to follow both Federal and State Law.” She noted that Blue Mountain Minerals did a “Good job evaluating on a Negative declaration.” She also said it is important to not require additional expenditures of companies when it is not required by law.
The decision to approve the expansion of the boundary was made at a public Planning Commission hearing in December. The Mitigated Negative Declaration for Conditional Use and Reclamation Plan outlines how the company plans to proceed and was accepted and approved unanimously by the Planning Commission.