A mining company that incited public opposition when it filed for an expansion of its operations in Grey Cloud Island Township has dropped at least a portion of its bid for now, a company spokeswoman said Monday.
Aggregate Industries notified the Grey Cloud Island Township town board Friday that because of the pandemic, the company decided it was in the community's best interest to postpone a request for a variance that would allow it to mine portions of its property closer to County Road 75 in Washington County. A town board vote on the company's request to mine within the township's 500-foot setback had been expected on Thursday.
"We feel that by postponing this request, we will be better able to provide more detailed information to the community, and the public hearing will be able to be held in person at a future time," said Stephanie Sulcer of LafargeHolcim, the Switzerland-based parent of Aggregate Industries.
The announcement was met with confusion among town residents, who said a map that arrived with the company's latest announcement shows it still intends to expand mining in some areas, including a section on the northern edge of its Larson Quarry that would bring operations within 500 feet of the property line of Ted Ries and Christina Capecchi.
Ries was among those who first complained about the company's plans to expand the mine, and who circulated a petition among locals that asked the three-person Board of Supervisors to deny the variance.
"I don't know what they're trying to pull," said Ries, who said the map shows future mining activity taking place about 100 feet from his property line. A company spokeswoman did not address Ries' concern, saying the company is still going through its permitting process.
Jeff Mohr said the updated map shows mining would take place about 225 feet from his house next year, not in 2022 as originally proposed.
"It almost seems like they're accelerating their plans to mine in that area," he said.
Mohr, like Ries and Capecchi, lives in a house that was once owned by a mining company employee. Both houses had deeds that included permissions from past owners for mining operations to come closer than 500 feet, though they said it's their understanding that those permissions are no longer valid.
The mine has long operated under a series of owners on the Mississippi River island just downriver from St. Paul, providing sand, gravel and road construction materials. A tonnage tax provides some income to the township.
A bid to expand in the 1970s led to a high-profile showdown between the mine owners and residents, with the locals eventually winning some restrictions on the mine's expansion.
This year the company requested both a renewal of its five-year conditional-use permit to operate the mine and a variance to mine in areas that were within the township's 500-foot setback. The Board of Supervisors on Oct. 14 approved the conditional-use permit, with the exception of areas subject to the variance request.
Town Clerk Cheryl McColley said the township is consulting its attorney to determine what the latest development means for mining in the area.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329