View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

Another Cemex stall?

Request for cost estimate pending 2 months after hearing on latest mine-halting bill

Posted: January 19, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 19, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Two months after a congressional subcommittee determined it needs a cost estimate before considering a bill to block a mega-mine in Canyon Country, the request to conduct the estimate hasn’t been made, The Signal has learned.

In November, the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining heard testimony on the bill, S. 771, that would swap federal land near Victorville in exchange for mining contracts in Soledad Canyon issued by the Bureau of Land Management. The subcommittee ordered the bill to the Congressional Budget Office to “score” it – that is, determine the fair-market value for the 56 million tons of sand and gravel that could be removed from the land under the contracts.

The “score” will determine how much compensation Cemex would give up by not mining in the area and help legislators insure no cost to the federal government in the transaction.

“We’re hopeful that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will receive a ‘score’ from the Congressional Budget Office in the first quarter of this year,” Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl told The Signal last week.

“The scoring assessment will, of course, look at all factors, including the value of the aggregates and the associated royalties,” she said. “Cemex prefers not to offer any guesses as to the outcome but looks forward to the CBO’s assessment, as it is a necessary step in moving the process forward.”

Royalties are fees that would be paid to various agencies to operate the mine. Among the recipients of royalties would be the Bureau of Land Management.

Long-running battle

Santa Clarita officials and Cemex locked in a head-to-head battle over the issue of the mine more than 10 years ago, and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, repeatedly introduced legislation to block the mine. His bills failed, never even making it to a House subcommittee hearing.

City officials say the mine would: increase congestion, especially on Highway 14; compromise Santa Clarita Valley air quality; harm protected native species; and lower residents’ quality of life.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sponsored the latest three mine-blocking proposals. The bill now under consideration, introduced in April 2013, calls for Cemex to be fully compensated for the loss of revenue for the contracts. Cemex supports S. 771.

But any expectation of the appraisal — or scoring — being done promptly appears unrealistic. The scoring request from Sen. Manchin’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining has not been made.
Asked how long the CBO needs to “score” the bill, the spokeswoman said she does not know.


A major sticking point on approval of the bill will be royalties.

When it comes to assessing royalties for nonmetallic minerals such as the aggregates that would be produced by the Cemex mine, royalties are calculated on a cents-per-ton-mined basis, according to Colorado-based Pincock, Allen & Holt, a consulting and engineering firm that serves the international mineral resource industry.

Agreements over royalties often contain provisions for adjustments in rates according to some published inflation/ deflation indicator such as the Producer Price Index, the engineering firm says in a paper.

Royalties are spelled out in the two contracts the Bureau of Land Management issued to Transit Mixed Concrete — the original owner of the contracts — and specifically a minimum royalty to the United States of $28 million over the 20-year life of the two contracts, said Mike Murphy, intergovernmental relations officer for the city of Santa Clarita.

They are calculated by multiplying 56 million tons of extracted land by a royalty rate of 50 cents per ton.

But Bureau of Land Management officials say the royalties must be reassessed to $1.50 a ton to reflect fair-market values.

“Over the entire 20-year lifespan of the two contracts, utilizing the 50-cents-per-ton figure for the first four years and then $1.50 per ton over years five to 20, the overall royalty is currently estimated at $77.35 million,” Murphy said.

City role

Cemex has proposed the city be responsible for paying those royalties, Murphy said.

“We have not given them a response to that,” he said. “It is difficult to have a realistic sense of all the numbers that would be within the complex overall calculation.”

During the Senate subcommittee hearing on the Cemex bill, Steve Ellis, acting deputy director for the BLM, said canceling the Cemex contracts would amount to a loss of millions of dollars in royalties for the federal government.

Preventing any future mining on the site, another aspect of Boxer’s bill, could cost the federal government an estimated $450 million in royalties, Ellis said.

Congress has until the end of this year to act on the bill.


Carlitos: Posted: January 19, 2014 6:18 a.m.

I am for the Cemex mine. The materials are needed, it would be a huge local economy boost for years, and sand and gravel pits aren't so bad. Make a big enough hole to put city hall, Jake's Way and the MHP in!
All this anti-Cemex histeria is NIMBY whining. We need the aggregate for freeway construction, new housing and commercial development. If they did not have aggregate available, there wouldn't be a city.

ruth: Posted: January 19, 2014 7:29 a.m.

Carlitos, wondering if you live in Valencia?

cj64: Posted: January 19, 2014 7:42 a.m.

I agree with Carlitos. The mine is something the City really needs and really wants. The mining operation will be needed by big developers for years. The City does not care about its citizens, only the needs and wants of the developers. That is why there will be huge electronic billboards blighting our city, selling the new housing developments.
The final resolution will be a fee that needs to be paid for by the taxpayers of Santa Clarita to Cemex. When a fee of $10,000 per property owner is voted down, the City stooges can say the people really did not want to remove the Cemex mine.

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: January 19, 2014 8:05 a.m.

Ever hear of "quality" of life? Who the hell wants all that dust kicked up into the air? Do you enjoy having bits of gravel hit your windshield when you're driving on the freeway? You think those gravel trucks don't lose gravel? This is not a gravel mine, it is is a gold mine for auto windshield replacement. This city certainly DOES NOT NEED a friggin gravel mine here. There are plenty of other business opportunities. Leave this garbage for the inland empire.

cj64: Posted: January 19, 2014 9:00 a.m.

City officials say the mine would: increase congestion, especially on Highway 14; compromise Santa Clarita Valley air quality; harm protected native species; and lower residents’ quality of life

The above statement is true about all the development that has happened in the years since the present City Council has been in power.
They are not going to stop the mine. It is needed by developers,
just like the huge electronic billboards. The people dont want the electronic billboards, and they dont want the mine. The City Director, Mr Cole, who is pushing the electronic billboards used to work at Newhall Land and Farm. NLF needs the electronic billboards to sell their houses, and they need the mine for concrete to build their houses.

Carlitos: Posted: January 19, 2014 9:22 a.m.

Ruth, depending where you draw a "Valencia" line: Yes. Adjacent at least, and not in the unnecessary city bureaucracy. Many of the arguements used by the anti's are also used by the pro's. Truth is stranger than fiction.
"Without nearby mines, aggregate must be trucked in from long distances, boosting aggregate costs and leading to more traffic congestion, wear and tear on roads, air pollution from diesel fumes and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report."
"Aggregate is sand, gravel and crushed stone used in concrete and blacktop.
“While aggregate isn’t as glamorous as gold, it’s literally one of the cornerstones of modern society and important to the state’s economy,” said State Geologist Dr. John Parrish in a news release from the California Department of Conservation, which oversees the survey.
Statewide, the aggregate and construction industry’s economic impact has been $230 billion and the industry supported more than 1.8 million jobs in recent years, according to the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association."
It would be in everyone's best interests if Cemex was allowed to operate a business that is much needed to support a recovering and growing economy. If you don't get aggregate from the Cemex mine, you will still get the traffic and smog hauling it in from somewhere else. The further away that somewhere else is, the more smog and traffic.

FunTimeSportSharks: Posted: January 19, 2014 11:12 a.m.

Hey pro-mine people... are you CRAZY?!? Have any of you been to the areas off of the 210/605 FWY or 210/15 FWY or the 15 FWY between the 60 FWY & the 91 FWY? Have you seen the horrible air quality (especially on a windy day) created by all the mining there? This mine will have a negative effect on the ENTIRE SCV, not just the eastside, and some of the other surrounding communities. The air quality, and therefore the quality of life, in the ENTIRE SCV will be horrific. Not to mention the home prices in the ENTIRE SCV will go down. We know several families (including ours) that will be erecting for sale signs on the front lawns of homes and vacating the SCV if CEMEX starts operating up the freeway from our home(s). I, like many other parents, want my kids to stay and grow up healthy! If this mine goes through, is CEMEX going to pay the medical bills of all the respiratory issues caused by their operation? Is CEMEX going to pay for the damage to vehicles that their product causes by bouncing off of trucks? Is CEMEX going to pay for the freeway and other roads to be resurfaced due to wear and tear caused by trucks coming and going from their mine? NO they won't, that will be the tax payers paying for all the damage they cause. Either way, people will have to pay one way or another thanks to CEMEX. Disturbing that CEMEX is holding a "ransom" over the city and the people residing in the SCV just to keep them from ruining the community.

Carlitos: Posted: January 19, 2014 6:05 p.m.

FunTimeSportSharks I drive by all those mine locations regularly, and, NEVER have noticed any dust or air quality problems. You are promulgating a myth, not facts. Another huge thing you ANTI's are blissfully ignorant of: Next time the I-5/14 bridges and tunnels fall collapse or burn, WHERE do you think you are going to get the aggregate to repair them? Not here, right? Then how the heck is it going to get here? Over the damaged roads? --edited.

ruth: Posted: January 19, 2014 7:08 p.m.

Hey Carlitos, buy a house in Canyon Country since the mine will not be a problem. You should be just fine.

Rocketeer: Posted: January 19, 2014 7:59 p.m.

As always, very strong opinions about CEMEX but not a lot of facts. Although I am glad to see the Signal correct Lee Rogers' lie that Buck McKeon never introduced legislation to block CEMEX.

The proposed site of the mine is at 34.428151,-118.372364. That is by no stretch of the imagination "in Canyon Country."

If CEMEX means reduced air quality in Santa Clarita, then I don't want it. But is it really so inconceivable that a mine could be run without spewing dust? I've seen similar open pit mines which spray water to pull dust out of the air. The land is contoured such that the water collects in catch basins so it can be used again and again.

Rather than have a knee-jerk NO! reaction to any type of industry, I'd prefer a more common sense approach of setting clear criteria the CEMEX mine must meet in order to operate. Too many particulate emissions? You're shut down 'til you fix the problem. Broken windshields on the freeway? Your trucks are shut down until you fit them with better payload containment.

CEMEX could bring money and jobs to the region, and supply the nation with vital building materials. The technology certainly exists for this mine to operate without reducing quality of airo r life. This false dichotomy of "CEMEX gets to strip mine downtown Canyon Country" vs. "absolutely NO mining within 100 miles of the SCV" benefits no one.

Carlitos: Posted: January 20, 2014 9:25 p.m.

Hey Ruth I live near the Castaic Brick operation. They mine clay, shape bricks, fire them, and away trucks of them. No one whines about it. Dodger Stadium infield is crushed Castaic brick.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 20, 2014 4:36 p.m.

It's good to see that a few people still see the big picture and support the mine. It's just gravel, folks, not radioactive sludge! This is economically necessary. The jobs created are REAL jobs building our great and beautiful state. Ladies and gentlemen, please don't be so mean spirited toward the people who build your homes and roads for you. BUT.... even if you are mean as a snake, don't worry. We will still show up and save you when the big one hits.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 20, 2014 4:50 p.m.

EgbertSouse, I just noticed your comment about leaving this stuff for the inland empire. I think that really shows where your head is at in terms of caring about the whole environment that we all share, or just yourself. There are 2 sets of impacts: one is what *might* happen to your windshield and the other is what *will* happen to the ECONOMY. Trucking this stuff in from the Inland Empire is not a solution. Do you even care about CO2 emissions from all those extra truck miles? Global warming is caused by local decisions that don't take into account the horrid non-local consequences.

FunTimeSportSharks: Posted: January 20, 2014 5:13 p.m.

Carlitos then you have been very lucky not to have witnessed or experience the poor air quality in that area on your drives down the 15. We frequently drive that way to go to the USMC Miramar Air Base a few times a year (the past 12 years)and had a close friend that lived in the area near Norco for a over 10 years. We have seen first hand all of the crap from the mines blowing around in the air on numerous occasions. Our friend moved just over a year ago out of that area after one of their middle children (all four of the kids had some kind of allergy issues since birth in that area) developed a severe respiratory problem that caused hospitalization at CHOC. The regular pediatrician had mentioned for years to them about all the breathing troubles he sees in his patients regularly due to the poor air quality near their home from the mining, but when the CHOC doctor advised them to look into moving because of the respiratory issues, they listened. They ended up selling their house and moved down to San Diego. This particular child has had no issues since the move the last year and the other siblings have had no allergy issues either since the move. The existing mining areas off of the 15 or out near the Victorville/Barstow areas (where it has been suggested CEMEX take up it's operation by many over the numerous years this fight has gone on) can take care of the aggregate needs of the area... As for the 14/5 if it goes down again in the "big one", I'm sure they will bring in the materials to fix it the same way they did before. =) --edited.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 20, 2014 6:44 p.m.

Rocketeer, you are a thoughtful person and I wanted to share with you that since 2000, when the BLM issued their final decision that the mine was a go, that was the end of a process which took 10 years, studied the issues in great depth, and set strict limits on the operation. Since then, due to the political efforts that have been expended in opposition to the mine, CEMEX also was forced to enter into a thing called a "consent decree" which was a settlement between them and the county. That set even more limits on the operation. Santa Clarita challenged that several times and lost every time, right on up to the Supreme Court. I would love to know the total amount of taxpayer dollars that has really been spent trying to block something which is not only beneficial, but vital to our economy. It is not beyond conjecture that the well heeled "SAFE" (!!who spent $150 million opposing the mine!!) could well be a front for Vulcan materials corp., as they would get to enjoy a monopoly in the absence of this mine.

cj64: Posted: January 20, 2014 6:52 p.m.

Newhall Land and Farms is building 20,000 homes off the 126. They know who to buy off to get what they want.

They need this concrete. They know who to buy off to get what they want from the Cemex mine.

They need big electronic billboards. Buy off city officials, you get the billboards to advertise the new homes.

You need water for the homes, buy off the Sanitiation Board(Antonovich, Kellar, Weste and McLean), you get the water.

You need a new offramp off the 126, buy off our officials and you get a $50 Million interchange.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 20, 2014 6:54 p.m.

Sorry, but I have to chime in again on the issue of property values. This mine was permitted in 1990. If you bought your home after that, you bought your home next to a permitted mine. Follow the logic for a second: if we were to apply the reasoning used here across the country, there would be no mines, because local opposition (which is a given, but can also take the more sinister form of a front for a competitor) would merely have to build a bunch of homes next to the permitted mine while delaying it with frivolous legal challenges, then win over the less thoughtful folks by repeating your present argument. --edited.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 20, 2014 7:06 p.m.

cj64, you are also a thoughtful person and I see that you are quite cynical about the local government. Though I may also be a cynic, to be fair, I wanted to point out that if they could, the City of Santa Clarita most certainly would have stopped this mine and they tried very, vey hard to do it and continue to try, at great expense. The problem is that they can't for a simple, two-part reason: a) the minerals are owned by the Federal Government, and b) they (the Federal Government) studied the issue, decided it was necessary, and don't give a rat's ass about nonsensical and vague concerns over nonexistent dust clouds --edited.

cj64: Posted: January 21, 2014 7:41 a.m.

The local officals had the opportunity to stop the mine. They produced a "halfhearted" campaign that accomplished nothing. They took 20 or more trips to Washington DC, staying in fine hotels and eating at fancy restaurants that were very good for Kellar and Weste, who always seemed to go. Worthless Buck put out one piece after another of poor legislation to stop the mine.

They all knew that the mine was necessary for the population of Santa Clarita to get over 1 Million. Developers planning massive numbers of new housing tracts are dependent on the Cemex mine to provide concrete. The developers have the City Council in their pockets.

LStaedtler: Posted: January 21, 2014 4:04 p.m.

cj64- Your comments are a great read. Essentially the most far-fetched conspiracy ideas I've ever read.

cj64: Posted: January 21, 2014 6:20 p.m.

Read the LA County Board of Supervisors approval of the Cemex mine in the 90s.
Read the BLM statements to the city's objection in the recent congressional hearings.

Look around. We are not stupid people.

Upgraded power lines through Valencia. Needed by Newhall Ranch.

New water treatment plants increasing our taxes by hundreds every year.
This was approved by Antonovich, Weste, Kellar and McLean. Needed by Newhall Ranch.

Pay per use carpool lanes, after we paid 0.5% sales tax for carpool lanes. Approved by Antonovich, Needed by Newhall Ranch.

$50 Million offramp and overpass on the 126. Approved by Antonovich. Needed by Newhall Ranch.

Awful ugly huge electronic billboards that will be approved soon by our bought off city council. Needed by Newhall Ranch.

Cemex mine, never stopped by our "officials", coming soon! Needed by Newhall Ranch.

Carlitos: Posted: January 21, 2014 8:19 p.m.

I knew it! Next those Communist Sex Change Arroyo Toads will join the fray. --edited.

DMeyer: Posted: January 22, 2014 8:01 a.m.


I almost fell off my chair, classic!

LStaedtler: Posted: January 22, 2014 11:51 a.m.

Again, some of the "facts" you list are inaccurate to your argument. You are right, there are smart people and see through your "facts".

FunTimeSportSharks: Posted: January 23, 2014 7:36 a.m.

Dear Signal, can you please do some investigative reporting on this CEMEX issue and provide the following information to the good citizens of the SCV? Personally, I don't recall the information to these questions every being in the paper, but then again this issue has been going on for some time and you could have printed it years ago. This information would be most helpful to everyone.

1) The type of rock being crushed rock being crushed? Is it serpentine (containing asbestos), silicates (containing granite), etc... ?

2) The particulate size (how big the gravel is to be, the more crushing the more dust/particulates are generated). Water shouldn't be wasted to "water down" their dust (especially during drought years).

3) What type of air emission/dust controls, etc...? From a health impact standpoint, serpentine rock is a huge health risk, not to mention the health threat from the exhaust of 100's of diesel gravel trucks driving back and forth to and from the place near so many residential neighborhoods.

4) Do we know where they are at in regarding the air permitting and EIR process? CEMEX needs to go through the AQMD permit and EIR process (which usually takes several years). This process includes a detailed evaluation of various impacts: health, traffic, light, noise, etc.... The possible health impact to the community is a big part of this. These processes require significant public review and input. If this process is currently going on, it would be great for the public to know about it so those of us sentenced to live next to it can voice our concerns and fight it.

Carlitos: Posted: January 23, 2014 10:48 a.m.

FunTimeSportSharks is an evil whacko, deliberately disseminating irrelevant mis-information:
1. Cemex is a sand and gravel mine. NOT a rock crushing quarry operation. But, FunTimeSportSharks really already knew that didn't you?
2. Look at the mine site on Google Maps 34.428151,-118.372364. It is not near anything, except sand and gravel in the riverbed. You would have more smog and truck traffic hauling in all the necessary aggregate (just so you know that means sand and gravel) if the mine is NOT near-by. This mine is the perfect location for this necessary material sourcing. --edited.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 25, 2014 9:49 p.m.

FunTimeSportSharks, to my knowledge, it's what's known as PCC aggregate, which is materially and chemically suitable for making concrete. As far as you saying they shouldn't "waste" any water, they won't waste one drop of it. It's absolutely necessary to use water in a mining operation. These minerals are used to build everything, and need to be sourced locally. We can't just push it out to the "poor areas" as some people suggest. That's just wrong in every way.
As far as the trucks emitting diesel, you need to think about the reality that without this mine, they are trucking in the gravel from farther and farther away. You guys live near a freeway and the trucks already drive on it, seriously, think: more mines means less truck miles traveled, period, always, end of story. --edited.

noairportpeople: Posted: January 25, 2014 2:05 p.m.

I was raised in Saugus which is now part of CC and there has been a quarry in the area of where Cemex purchased the quarry in question since before 1950. This is not a new location for mining, as I was raised near this mine from 56 to 71.

I used the name Airport people because of the people that buy a house near an airport and after they move in they want the airport to do something about the noise. The quarry was there already.

I have been in the materials business a long time and to all of you that think the quarries put dust in the air, you have no idea of the restrictions that are put on a plant not to produce dust of any type. Modern plants have the crushing facilities inside buildings that contain all the dust. Modern plants like Cemex would build at this site would be operated with electric power and would not add any pollution in the area of operation.

To the person that says the air is bad near the 605 and the 10 area and says it is from the quarries is badly mistaken. There are over thirty manufacturing plants in that area that are responsable for the black air you see. There are 4 quarries in the Irwindale area and three of them are using dredges to dig below water level so all material being crushed or screened is wet and the crushing facilities for all four are producing no exterior dust because the crushing is all contained inside buildings. designed to contain the dust. The only time you will see dust from a quarry in California is if the winds blow. There is dust in the air where I live now when the wind blows and the nearest quarry is 20 miles away.

If you are concerned with air polution consider that if the quarry does not produce materials where it is then the materials must be trucked in from a long way and this will actually add to the overall pollution in CC. No matter who needs the materials, state, federal, developers, home owners or contractors the material will be trucked in and will create increased pollution and greater cost to the consumer whoever it happens to be. Having the quarry there will not increase the number of trucks on the road, it will decrease the truck traffic. Assume the city wants to pave a road at Soladad and Seirra Hwy and wants 4000 tons in one day. The number of trucks it will take to deliver the material to this location from Cemex would be 20, if it came from Palmdale the next closest quarry it would take 45 trucks. The pollution would be more than double without Cemex mining the material.

The shame here is that the poorly informed people of CC are actually going to pay more for everything that requires materials if the BLM makes the decision to swap land. CC will loose tax revenue, good jobs, pay a very large tax increase to pay the BLM for the swap and building costs will go up. I am sorry to say that the leaders of your city will be the only ones that will make out from the swap, and they have already wasted a whole lot of money entertaining themselves on your dime.

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: January 28, 2014 11:36 a.m.

Noairportpeople, thank you for sharing your well informed perspective. You are absolutely right and it is encouraging to see it laid out so eloquently. Don't take my word for it, I drive a truck for a living. The LA Times editorial staff hit the nail on the head way back in 2001:

NoLawAgainstCommonSense: Posted: February 5, 2014 11:15 a.m.

For all the comments on here, which are mostly rehashing of peoples deeply held viewpoints, there are no comments about the actual topic of the article. Question: how long does it take to refer a bill to the CBO for scoring? I am very interested to see if the mine opponents are able to achieve the stated goal of a "zero score" (i.e. zero cost to the taxpayer on S. 771) in light of the fact that the bill directs the BLM to sell 10,000 acres of public land to partially compensate CEMEX (CEMEX gets to sue the Fed for the difference if they are not made whole) and extinguishes the BLM's right to a minimum of $475,000,000 in royalties. Can't wait to see how they make that pencil out.

You need to be a registered user to post a comment. Please click here to register.

The Signal encourages readers to interact with one another, following the guidelines outlined in our Comment/Moderation Policy. Click here to read it.

To report offensive or inappropriate comments, e-mail The content posted from readers of does not necessarily represent the views of The Signal or Morris Multimedia. By submitting this form you agree to the terms and conditions listed above. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...