U.S. Bureau of Land Management Permit Enforcement

When Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI) first purchased the quarry operation in 2016, U.S, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials informed the company that several compliance problems under the federal permit for the quarry carried over from the previous mine operator, CalX Minerals.

BLM gave the company a temporary pass on dealing with permit violations. The agency agreed that the violations could be remedied “within a reasonable amount of time.”

In 2018, RMI announced its plans for a massive expansion of the 16-acre quarry, proposing a 20-year mining plan for a quarry that would extend over 321 acres. The controversial plan included proposed remedies for the permit violations.

By July 2019, BLM accepted a much-revised version of RMI’s “Plan of Operations Modification.” The agency announced plans to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to review the proposal. BLM rolled out fact sheets, a web page, and plans to conduct five advance studies prior to formally launching the EIS process in 2020.

Mineral examination delayed for years

One key advance study was a mineral examination. It evaluates two aspects of the mining proposal: the chemical composition of the limestone deposit across the proposed mining area, and the prospects for RMI to market the limestone for a narrow range of purposes allowed under the Mining Act of 1872. The end result of the mineral examination is a Determination of Common Variety.

BLM officials initially expected to complete the mineral examination and the other advance studies by mid-2020. Over the ensuing months and years, however, completion of the DCV was repeatedly delayed. To date, the document has still not been released to the public.

The other advance studies are on hold until the DCV is issued, as is any action to begin the EIS process. Meanwhile, RMI continues to operate the quarry, making no efforts to resolve the permit compliance problems.

Escrow account established in 2019

In 2019, BLM initiated a requirement for RMI to enter into an escrow agreement. Under the agreement, RMI must submit limestone sales receipts to BLM on a monthly basis, and must pay funds into an escrow account for the fair market value of limestone products not allowed for sale under the 1872 Mining Act.

Escrow payment amounts are

  • $1.30 per ton for crushed limestone
  • $1.50 per ton for rip-rap
  • $3 per ton for limestone boulders
  • 51 cents per ton for crusher fines

The agreement notes that RMI must provide the reports and payments or be subject to prosecution.

BLM did not inform the public about this agreement. The Citizens’ Alliance learned about it through a document request about the agency’s dealings with RMI submitted under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

BLM initiates enforcement action in 2022

After six years of out-of-compliance mining operations at the limestone quarry, BLM finally cited RMI for failing to address compliance problems in August 2022.

On Aug. 30, 2022, BLM sent a Noncompliance Order and a separate Notice of Noncompliance to RMI, citing five compliance issues at the quarry.

The Noncompliance Order cites these four compliance issues:

  • Grading and sloping for the mill site and the lower access road are not “within the authorized area in the approved plan of operations.” (See aerial map at right.)
  • The current highwall portion of the quarry does not comply with the approved plan.
  • Stormwater structures have been constructed outside the approved area.
  • The mill bench topsoil storage pile is inadequate for future site reclamation and not properly graded.

The separate Notice of Noncompliance focuses on RMI’s occupancy of the limestone mill facility. The mill sits at the foot of the quarry and is outside the area authorized for occupancy.

BLM’s notices did not address another important compliance problem. RMI continues to mine, process and sell limestone from public lands while lacking the proper approvals to sell limestone for “common variety” purposes such as road base, boulders and rip-rap.

RMI’s first proposed plan modification found to be incomplete

RMI submitted a modified plan of operations on Oct. 7, 2022. After reviewing the plan, BLM deemed it incomplete.

In a letter issued Nov. 9, 2022, BLM gave RMI specific instructions for revising its proposal. Those instructions call on RMI to provide:

  • A description of operations with maps showing plans for mining, rock handling, road access, spills, stormwater management, power and water services, and a schedule of operations from start through closure.
  • A complete plan for reclamation of the entire quarry area, including backfilling the open pit, grading, revegetation, containment of toxic materials, and demolition of buildings.
  • An interim management plan for the quarry during seasonal closures.

The BLM letter notes that if RMI fails to meet that new year-end deadline, the agency will take action to suspend all or part of the quarry operations, and may suspend or permanently cease operations at the mill facility.

Rockslide causes second proposed plan modification to be incomplete

RMI submitted a second plan of operations proposal on Jan. 6, 2023. While BLM officials were reviewing the second submission for completeness, a massive slope collapse occurred at the quarry on Jan. 18, 2023.

Because of the rockslide, BLM is viewing the second submission as incomplete.

The agency sent a letter to RMI on Feb. 3, 2023, stating:

“Due to changed conditions resulting from a large rockslide incident … BLM does not have sufficient information to review or potentially approve RMI’s plan modification as submitted, and therefore has concluded that the plan modification is incomplete.”

The BLM letter cites the MSHA order requiring RMI to “provide a written plan to recover the benches and face stability in the quarry.”

BLM expects this “yet unknown” recovery plan “will significantly change the scope of RMI’s plan modification.” The letter also notes, “BLM expects this change will result in an increase in disturbed acres.”

The red cross-hatched area layered onto this aerial photo shows the boundaries of the limestone quarry as authorized in RMI’s federal permit.

The lower bench of the quarry, the mill facility and the lower access road (to the left of the permitted access road) are all outside the federal permit boundary.

Image from U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 2022

Enforcement process documents archive

BLM Noncompliance Order 3809, Aug. 30, 2022

This document cites the four problem areas in RMI’s current quarry operations

BLM Notice of Noncompliance 3715, Aug. 30, 2022

This document focuses on the crusher mill being located outside the mine permit area.

BLM response to RMI’s 1st proposed Plan Modification, Nov. 9, 2022

BLM response to RMI’s 2nd proposed Plan Modification, Feb. 3, 2023

Stay informed about the public review process

BLM is handling its new effort to bring RMI quarry operations into compliance as a “major plan modification with a limited scope.”

Because this is a “major modification,” revisions to the plan of operations will be subject to a public review process.

Stay informed about the process.

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