Santa Clarita reports more than $12M in costs for Cemex fight

The Cemex mining site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita has spent approximately $12.15 million in fighting Cemex, the company hoping to excavate millions of tons of sand and gravel from an area just outside the city’s eastern border in Soledad Canyon.

The figure, which includes about $6.16 million spent on legal fees, has grown steadily over the years. In 2002, the city had spent $1.5 million in legal fees, administrative costs and public relations campaigns to block the mine, according to news reports at the time. By 2008, the number was reportedly more than $7 million.

While the fight has gone on for more than 20 years, Congressman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, also said the legislative effort was “as close to a fix on Cemex as we’ve ever been,” in a meeting with The Signal on Tuesday, while also declining to provide a “scoop” or any insight on the nature of what that would look like.

“Until we’re done,” Knight said, referring to a resolution to the city’s ongoing fight with the international mining company, “Cemex is (the) No. 1 (priority).”

All sides involved have remained reticent about revealing any sort of strategy, due to a concern that reporting such information could compromise either side’s position on such a contentious and hard-fought issue.

The costs were released after a request by The Signal in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Cemex last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the city claiming breach of contract, civil rights violations, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and declaratory relief. The lawsuit was a response to city plans to annex the site of the mine.

The lawsuit stated the city has made “numerous and deliberate violations of a settlement agreement between Cemex and the city that resolved prior litigation brought by Cemex several years ago challenging the city’s improper efforts in 2005 to annex Cemex’s mining site, in much the same way as the city seeks now in 2017 to improperly annex that same Cemex mining site, along with other improper actions.”

City officials declined comment, saying the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Click here for a link to the complaint filed by Cemex.

The lawsuit said the city tried to annex the site without environmental review and in disregard to a truce between the city and Cemex in order to manage the site and shut down the mining project.

The lawsuit said the city proposed annexing 4.21 square miles—2,694.4 acres—that would include nearly all of the mine site during a Nov. 14 city council meeting. The lawsuit said the city provided a 21-day public comment period, but did not notify Cemex or the Bureau of Land Management.

On Dec. 5, the day the public comment period closed, the city’s Planning Commission approved a recommendation that the City Council adopt a resolution favoring annexation, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit referred to a separate Sacramento-area lawsuit that resulted in a jury awarding more than $100 million in damages to two surface mining companies.

Cemex said it has two federal contracts to mine 56.1 million tons of sand and gravel from a 500-acre site in Soledad Canyon, about two miles outside city limits.

Santa Clarita City Council members approved a pair of $20,000 lobbying contracts last fall to support its effort to keep the Cemex sand-and-gravel mine away from Soledad Canyon, but said a decision by the BLM to cancel mineral rights contracts could come in weeks or years. Cemex has filed an appeal to the decision.

City officials had said the average time for a decision is two to two-and-a-half years. September 2017 was about the two-year mark.

Perry Smith contributed to this report.

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