BLM: Cemex has 30 days to pay $7M

The Cemex mining site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Cemex, the international company proposing a mega-mine on Santa Clarita’s eastern border in Soledad Canyon, has 30 days to pay $7 million to the Bureau of Land Management or face the U.S. Department of the Treasury for nonpayment, according to a legal notice from BLM. 

On April 24, the BLM issued the notice to Cemex regarding an amount due of $7 million, or $6.3 million for its first 10-year contract that expired in July 2010 and a $700,000 bid deposit made by Cemex as forfeiture — and demanded that the mining company pay within 30 days from the receipt. 

If the full payment is not received, BLM will submit the unpaid bill to the Department of Treasury as an outstanding debt owed to the federal government, according to a Tuesday news release from the city of Santa Clarita, which said the notice represented that the proposed mining project was one step closer to not happening. 

“The fact that the Bureau of Land Management is noticing CEMEX to get the money owed, is just another sign that we are nearing the end of this saga,” Bob Kellar, councilman and Cemex City Council Ad Hoc Committee member, said in a prepared statement. “Time is quickly running out on the second contract, which is set to expire in July of this year. We look forward to the day when we can officially announce that the contracts are expired.”

Cemex has not responded to multiple requests for comment about its legal battle to overturn the BLM rulings and, as of Tuesday, the company had not released a statement. 

Consistent with the terms of the second contract, BLM concludes that Cemex is required to pay the balance of the purchase price no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the contract. As a result, Cemex is required to pay BLM more than $21 million by June 1, for that second contract, the city news release read. 

“The Santa Clarita Valley is home to many points of historical interest, plant and animal species and precious natural resources,” Councilwoman Laurene Weste, who is also a Cemex City Council Ad Hoc Committee member, said in a prepared statement. “As a City Council, and as a community, we have long stood firm that mega-mining will never happen in our valley. I want to thank all of the elected officials, organizations and residents who have stood by us over the years. Although the end is in sight – we will remain vigilant.”

BLM’s demand for payment comes after Cemex appealed — and partially won — the bureau’s decision that ordered the mining company to pay $25 million in fees Cemex was previously assessed. The company’s argument sought court arbitration, challenging BLM’s ability to assess money Cemex should have been paying once the contracts were valid. 

The Interior Board of Land Appeals, which reviewed the appeal, said Cemex was right in arguing that BLM lacked authority to demand nearly $19 million in missed annual payments, but also partially denied its appeal in that the mining company did not show that BLM’s decisions lack rational basis, as well as rejecting Cemex’s claim that it is not required to make payments in lieu of production “when it is not authorized to produce, and never produced, mineral materials under the contracts.”

Santa Clarita’s fight to prevent mining in Soledad Canyon dates back to 1990 when the federal government first issued the contracts to a Cemex predecessor, which would have greenlighted the mining of 56 million tons of sand and gravel in the area. The project would result in about 1,164 truck trips per day to local roads and freeways, city officials have said. 

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