Cemex contract expires Friday; land bureau denies extension

Abandoned equipment stands at the Cemex site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal

Cemex’s second 10-year contract proposing a mega-mine on Santa Clarita’s eastern border in Soledad Canyon is expected to expire Friday, following a denial from the Bureau of Land Management of the company’s one-year extension request, which city officials announced Tuesday.

A spokesman for Cemex indicated a plan to appeal the ruling in the courts, in a statement submitted Tuesday as a response to the city’s announcement. 

Cemex has 30 days to appeal the denied extension, should they wish to do so, upon receipt of Land Management’s decision expected later this week. 

“Anybody that has this type of contract has the ability to request an extension of up to one year,” said city administrative analyst Masis Hagobian. “If (Cemex is) denied that request, they also have the ability to appeal. I don’t know when the mining company received the letter (decision), but I know that the Bureau of Land Management sent it to them last week.” 

Cemex officials referenced their May 2019 lawsuit, which sought to invalidate the Interior Board of Land Appeals’ March 2019 ruling that the company’s mining rights in Soledad Canyon would  expire on Friday: 

“Cemex has been successful in defeating prior legal challenges to the project. Cemex believes the process in Federal Court will also be successful, which will allow the development of the Soledad Canyon Project as has been approved by numerous environmental reviews. The Soledad Canyon Project is important to the development and infrastructure of California, providing a local source of high-quality aggregate reserves to help meet the high demand of sand and gravel in a rapidly-growing part of the state.”

With an expiration date soon approaching, the city of Santa Clarita called the 25-year battle “over” Tuesday, but acknowledged Cemex can still appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals,  and the company can also request a stay, meaning a temporary stop on a judicial proceeding or order.  

“Even though Cemex has the option to appeal the denied one-year extension, the July 31, 2020, date is a landmark victory for the city of Santa Clarita, the community and our local environment,” Bob Kellar, Councilmember and Cemex City Council Ad Hoc Committee member, said in a prepared statement.“As of that date, time will be up and there will no longer be active mining contracts for Soledad Canyon.”

Santa Clarita has fought to prevent mining in Soledad Canyon since 1990, when the federal government first issued the contracts to a Cemex predecessor, which would have allowed 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 and cause air quality issues, as well as potential harm to wildlife, city officials have said. 

In December 2019, Land Management stated for the current mining contract, and the prior 10-year contract, no actual production had occurred and no annual payments in lieu of production were made, and therefore annual in-lieu-of-production payments were due. Land Management is demanding $6.3 million for Cemex’s first 10-year contract, which expired in July 2010.

Land Management is also collecting the $700,000 bid deposit, made by Cemex, as forfeiture, for the full purchase value of the first contract owed to Land Management of $7 million, according to a legal notice from the bureau issued to Cemex on April 24. 

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