New Mexico basalt mine plan draws fire

February 3, 2014 • State News

LA BAJADA MESA, N.M. (AP) — An Albuquerque company’s plan to mine basalt near the villages of Cerrillos and Madrid is drawing fire from some residents.

Rockology and development company Buena Vista Estates recently applied to rezone and mine a 50-acre parcel of land on a mesa near the villages, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports ( ).

Buena Vista Estates owns more than 5,000 acres, which are for sale, on the mesa.

But for residents in the nearby villages, who can see La Bajada’s [auth] historic dark escarpment from the south, the plan is just the latest battlefront in ongoing skirmishes to stop mining in the area.

“It is an utterly destructive use of the land,” said Diane Senior, who lives in an off-grid, solar-powered home with a view of the entire mesa.

Cerrillos residents Ross Lockridge and his wife, Ann Murray, said the area could be a national monument one day.

The black basalt rock is prized as the crushed material used in asphalt, roadway base course and ready-mix concrete.

Rockology owner Steve Hooper said if the project is allowed, the plan is to operate the mine for 25 years. The mine would create three pits, each about 60 feet deep.

An application hearing is scheduled Feb. 20 before the Santa Fe County Development Review Committee.

The proposed basalt mine would have two 10,000-gallon water tanks, one for dust control and one in case of fire. A 5,000-gallon diesel fuel tank also would be on site, along with a mobile rock processing and crushing plant, Hooper said.

Community members, organized as the Rural Conservation Alliance, fought a 2012 application to the New Mexico state engineer by Rockology and Buena Vista Estates to move water rights from irrigation to sand and gravel washing.

The New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance, a nonprofit based in Santa Fe that’s devoted to protecting New Mexico’s cultural and environmental heritage, selected La Bajada Mesa and escarpment in 2003 as one of the state’s most endangered places.

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