Proposed Marblemount Mine Site Cannot Be Permitted Without Comprehensive Plan Revision

Nov. 4, 2020, midnight

By Jose Vila, Marblemount

The Keiwit Infrastructure Company’s “Mining Operation Permit Application” proposes that for “Project Steps 1 and 2” no Mineral Resource Overlay (MRO) revision to expand mining permit zoning to include the subject land parcels is required. Kiewit identifies Steps 1 and 2 as follows: 1. Site clearing, grading, preparation, and building access roads and stormwater systems; and 2. Mining within the existing Mineral Resource Overlay (MRO) Area. Kiewit further states, “The purpose of the access road construction is to provide access from the jetty stone loadout area to the top of the rock face for timber clearing.”

Actually timber clearing is described in Kiewit’s Operations Proposal as a part of (6)Site Preparation which is expected to take two months. (6)Site Preparation is proposed to take place prior to (8)Constructing Access Road which is anticipated to take three months. So Kiewit has proposed that the mining operations road they need for the purpose of “timber clearing” will be constructed after “timber clearing” has been completed.

Additionally, this “timber clearing” road to be constructed after the completion of “timber clearing” will be a 60 foot wide, 12.5% grade road, blasted with high explosives up a Seismic Hazard Critical rock mountain to 800 feet above the valley floor. Kiewit also proposes to complete this massive “timber clearing” road before a geotechnical analysis has been completed because “the geotechnical analysis cannot be completed until the access road is complete to allow for the investigation”. This “timber clearing” road to be constructed after the completion of “timber clearing” “to the top of the rock face for timber clearing”” will be specifically designed, engineered, and approved to handle massive fully loaded Caterpillar 773 – 60 ton off-road quarry trucks, high explosives trucks, and explosive charge bore-hole track-mounted drill rigs. So Kiewit has proposed a “timber clearing” mining road that will not be used for timber clearing, but which in reality has been exclusively and specifically designed for mining operations.

In terms of overall scheduling, timber clearing would occur during the first two months after permit approval. Mining and mining operations making exclusive use of the “timber clearing” road are expected to last for 50 to 100 years. 

Finally, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will assume jurisdiction for this ”timber clearing road” as a mine road based upon multiple factors as listed on the attached page from the MSHA Program Policy Manual. Kiewit knows these rules very well but appears to hope they can get a permit from Skagit County and address MSHA requirements afterwards.This is a mine road and must be considered and reviewed as such.

So Kiewit, in their permit application submitted to Skagit County, where the applicant has attested that his answers are “true and complete to the best of my knowledge”, has in essence asserted that once this massive “timber clearing” road that is clearly intended only for mining operations is constructed through an area not zoned for mining, they will just go ahead and use it exclusively for long term mining operations because the county already permitted it, and it just happens to have been designed, engineered, and built by them, within their proposed mining permit boundary, specifically for their proposed long term mining operations. 

The bottom line is that the misleading crafting and description of Steps 1 and 2 ilooks like a play by Kiewit to avoid addressing the MRO zoning and permitting problem in this initial mining permit application. Kiewit has proposed a “timber clearing” mining road that will not be used for timber clearing, but which in reality is exclusively and specifically intended for mining operations

Clearly Kiewit has included many mischaracterizations and conflicting plan descriptions and uses in their Permit Application Documents that need to be corrected before a reasonable application posting and review process can be undertaken.

Furthermore, it seems very clear that Skagit County Planning and Development cannot review or permit the proposed quarry operation because approximately 40% of the the area to be used exclusively for long term mining operations, by industrial mining equipment, within Kiewits’ designated “Mining Permit Boundary”, is not currently zoned for mining use.

If Kiewit wants to properly pursue this use, they must first make a request for appropriate revisions to Skagit County’s Comprehensive Plan including a redrawing of the MRO to include the entire proposed area within their designated “Mining Permit Boundary” to allow for an application review of use in accordance with zoning.

Which leads us to the the bigger question for Skagit County decision makers: is it in our interest, the interest of the citizens we represent, and the health and well being of the environment and wildlife we are responsible for protecting, to make significant Comprehensive.Plan and permitting changes at Kiewit’s request to facilitate a use that is so overwhelming disfavored and would be so destructive to our environment, our homes, and our lives.

The loud and clear answer is “NO”.

This highlighted map from Kiewit’s application shows the current zoning and the proposed use: