Our View | Rally Call on the Cemex Mine

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By The Signal Editorial Board

Give the Cemex Soledad Canyon mining plan an old hockey goalie mask, and you’d think this thing was Jason Voorhees and you were reliving “Friday the 13th” and every one of its never-ending sequels.

Over. And over. And over again.

Now, like the villain of that decades-old slasher series, Cemex is back. And we need to rally together to fight it — again.

Truth is, it never left. Rumors of its death were largely wishful thinking.

Many current Santa Claritans may understandably ask, “What’s all this Cemex fuss about?” 

That’s because tens of thousands of residents weren’t here yet when this long-running battle began. It dates back to 1990, when the federal government quietly granted contracts to Transit Mixed Concrete to mine some 56 million tons of sand and gravel from land just outside the eastern boundary of the city of Santa Clarita.

For industries that need concrete — construction, of course — it makes business sense because it would put a ready source of sand and gravel close to where the product is needed. It costs a lot of money to haul rocks.

The Santa Clarita Valley’s quality of life would be collateral damage.

The city, then, was just a few years old. But the communities that united to form the new city were well-experienced at fighting back against undesirable things various entities — the state and Los Angeles County, primarily — had attempted to foist upon the SCV over the prior decades.

Landfills. Toxic waste dumps. State prisons. You name it. If would be an undesirable neighbor, they tried to stash it here, away from their more populous and influential constituencies.

It took a few years to mobilize, but once the collective consciousness was raised about the mine plan — which by then had been taken over by the Mexican multinational corporation, Cemex — the citizenry and the young city of Santa Clarita worked together to defend against it.

Thus began a battle that, several declarations of “victory” notwithstanding, continues today. 

Reader’s Digest version: The city and local residents object to the impacts the mine would have on the air we breathe, our local water quality, the wildlife that inhabits the hills and mountains surrounding us, and the traffic on our streets and highways that would be choked with about 1,000 exhaust-spewing, windshield-pitting gravel trucks every day. 

It would diminish the quality of life for anyone or anything in the SCV that breathes air, drinks water or drives a car. In essence, they want to turn us into Irwindale. 

No disrespect to Irwindale, of course — but we need to stop that from happening. And we can, if the entire community gets behind the effort.

The city engaged in a years-long battle with Cemex, advocating for legislation with mixed and often largely symbolic success. The city and Cemex agreed to a “truce” for several years while they tried to sort out their differences, but that ended in stalemate.

“Victory” was believed to be at hand in 2015, when the Bureau of Land Management, in a non-performance spat with Cemex, canceled the mining contracts.

It was over, right? 

Not so fast. Cemex appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. The IBLA took its sweet time, but finally upheld the BLM decision four years later.

This time it was really over, right? Wrong.

Cemex sued in federal court. Again, with that governmental expediency we all know and love, a U.S. District court ruled on the case three years later, in 2022.

It ruled in Cemex’s favor, resinstating the contracts.

The story remained relatively quiet for the past year. Until now.

This week, the Assembly approved legislation that would ensure our community would have a voice in any decision by the State Water Resources Control Board. Without the bill, the board could choose to grant Cemex’s permits without reopening the review on the over-30-year-old application. 

A lot has changed in 30 years.

Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, authored Assembly Bill 1631, and Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, coauthored the legislation, a revival of a bill he first introduced in 2021.

We commend them both for putting party politics aside to work together in the best interests of their shared constituents.

The very next day after the Assembly approved AB 1631, it was announced the state water board will, indeed, revisit the Cemex application to use water from the Santa Clara River for the Soledad mine. In essence, the board has kick-started the review that would be required should AB 1631 become law.

Some were alarmed by that news — after all, it means Cemex is “back,” so to speak, for another bite at the sand and gravel apple.

But, it’s actually a win, if an incremental one. That’s because it means that, unlike any time over the past 30 years, the community is now at least guaranteed a voice. 

As Wilk put it, we have another “at-bat.”

We all have a chance to tell the state water board exactly what our concerns are. The water board, if it is so moved by the myriad environmental and quality-of-life issues surrounding a massive mine so near to a suburban community, can stop it, once and for all. No permits, no mine.

Here’s our concern: After so many years of “fighting,” there’s a certain amount of complacency and fatigue about the issue. Many residents long ago chalked up this fight as “over.” Others didn’t even live here yet when it began, and when they see the news about it, they say, “Cemex what?”

We need to mobilize the community with the same vim and vigor that marked those heady early years of the fight to preserve our quality of life and the environment surrounding us. In the weeks and months ahead, we at The Signal will continue covering this issue and informing readers about exactly how, when and where you will be able to weigh in on this potentially devastating proposal.

It will take a motivated, action-oriented community effort to slay the Cemex dragon once and for all.

Jason … er, Cemex … is coming for us. With a chainsaw. 

Are we ready?

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