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Mining permit moves on to city council

The ball is now in the Rosemount City Council's court to decide whether to grant Dakota Aggregates a large-scale mineral extraction permit.

The city's planning commission voted 5-1 Tuesday to recommend the permit with a list of 34 conditions. Commissioner Vanessa DeMuth cast the lone no vote. DeMuth said she's not comfortable with mining under the groundwater table, which the project proposes to do.

"If it was limited to above the water table I would have voted differently," said DeMuth.

In addition to the permit recommendation, the commission recommended the city council approve an annual operating permit and an interim use permit to operate an aggregate processing plant. Both recommendations passed with 4-2 votes and also had long lists of conditions. DeMuth voted no to both motions in keeping with her aforementioned concerns.

Commissioner Wade Miller said he voted no on both motions because he did not feel the restrictions on hours of operation were appropriate. He said he'd like to see the restrictions reflect the real time needs of the company balanced with the concerns of the community.

As part of the conditions, staff suggested hours of operation for mining be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, loading and hauling will be done 24 hours a day. The company had requested to be able to operate everything 24 hours a day.

In his memo to the commission, city planner Eric Zweber said because the operation is new to everyone staff was not comfortable with a 24-hour schedule. He said in the future the company could come back and ask for additional hours.

During the meeting the planning commission reopened a public hearing it had carried over to take comment on the permit. No one spoke, but commissioners had plenty of questions for city staff and Dakota Aggregates representatives.

The questioning got tense when DeMuth asked what controls were in place to ensure that Dakota Aggregates were not mining within 15 feet of the bedrock, which is a condition of the mining permit.

Zweber explained a series of borings had been done and that a topographical map was created from the borings. Additionally, Zweber said the company would use GPS to check their location when digging. He added that the method is standard in the industry and that the city's consultants were comfortable with the method.

DeMuth said she would like to see more controls in place.

Chair John Powell followed up the question, asking Dakota Aggregates representative Shawn Dahl if he knew that bedrock elevations can vary greatly.

Dahl then asked if he could bring Jim Aiken, the company's consultant from Barr Engineering, up to explain the process better and Powell said no. Powell followed up saying that Dakota Aggregates would be running the operation and should know how it will ensure the standard.

Dahl said the information was based on underground exploration and not just a guess. He added that it is standard practice in the industry.

Environmental questions dominated and several conditions were added to help commissioners feel comfortable with the mining. Miller requested a condition that the company submit a quality assurance plan that has been approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. DeMuth asked that conditions be added that the city could test soil and water samples. She also asked that the city be notified two weeks in advance of well sampling. All were included with the recommendation to the council.

Dakota Aggregates plans to mine the western third of the UMore property over the next 40 years. The mining will begin with wet/dry mining in 2013.

Dahl said they want to be good neighbors and will continue to work with the city to make sure everyone is comfortable with the project.

While there seemed to be some concerns left on the table the commission did pass all three motions.

Now the city council will take on the issue. The council will review the commission's recommendation during its Oct. 10 work session and then could vote on the three motions at its Nov. 5 regular meeting.

Residents can look at the information and see the lists of conditions at the city's website, in the Agenda Center.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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