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Fighting Cemex: A long, winding (and costly) rocky road

Since the Bureau of Land Management granted Cemex two 10-year back-to-back mining contracts, civic leaders, environmental groups and residents have been fighting to stop the mine from happening.

The battle has been fought in a variety of arenas, involved several strategies and multiple proposed pieces of legislation.

Former Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, introduced half a dozen bills. None ever passed.

The path to Wednesday’s decision by the Interior Board of Land Appeals has been a rocky one:

  • 1990: BLM awards Cemex two consecutive 10-year contracts to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from a site in Soledad Canyon, north of Canyon Country. The city of Santa Clarita, however, strongly opposed Cemex’s proposed mining operation.
  • 2004: Former Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, proposes congressional legislation to block the Cemex mine by banning mining in Soledad Canyon.
  • February 2007: A “truce” is struck between Santa Clarita and the Mexican cement giant, with the city standing down from its opposition and Cemex halting any further permit pursuits, while the two sides were to negotiate an amicable solution.
  • April 2008: McKeon introduces HR 5877 to Congress proposing a swap of the mine for land in Victorville.
  • 2009: McKeon introduces his sixth bill aimed at keeping a massive sand and gravel mine out of the Santa Clarita Valley.
  • 2010: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduces her Soledad Canyon High Desert, California Public Lands Conservation and Management Act of 2010.
  • 2012: A five-year written “truce” between Santa Clarita and Cemex that staved off a major mine in Canyon Country expires. A petition drafted by the group Safe Action for the Environment Inc. calls on residents opposed to the Cemex mine. More than 3,000 sign it.
  • February 2015: Cemex informs city of Santa Clarita officials it is beginning work to update permits required to start mining.
  • August 2015: BLM notifies Cemex on Aug. 28 that its Soledad Canyon mining contracts, held for more than 20 years but never acted on, had been canceled.
  • September 2015: Cemex files an appeal of the BLM decision with the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
  • January 2018: The city of Santa Clarita reveals it spent about $12.15 million in fighting Cemex.
  • March 2018: Wording in the 2018 Omnibus spending bill, put forth by then-Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, precludes any mining operations in Soledad Canyon upon the conclusion or termination of existing contracts.

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