The state’s Water Resources Control Board dismissed a request Wednesday by Cemex, the Mexican multinational mining company looking to extract 56 million tons of aggregate from Soledad Canyon, which asked the agency to reconsider its decision to re-notice a decades-old Cemex water permit application.
The water permit seeking usage of water from the Santa Clara River has become an important hurdle for Cemex’s now-decades-long effort to open a massive mine.
The actions, and subsequent community concerns around the plans for the proposed mine site just beyond the eastern edge of the city of Santa Clarita, stem from Cemex’s June 1991 application for water rights for mining and industrial uses, “in compliance with contracts for mining materials issued in 1990 by the federal Bureau of Land Management,” according to the State Water Resources Control Board.
The city, groups of residents, environmentalists and the area’s state legislators have all put up a unified front against the mine in the years since the initial issuance of the permits, which has successfully delayed the mine.
The state water board then reported in a June decision letter it was re-noticing the Cemex application for the water to allow for stakeholder input, because a 2022 decision in federal court paved the way for Cemex to continue its efforts to build a mine.
The notice also increased the potential significance of a legislative effort already underway at that point by Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, and Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, that would have mandated the Water Resources Control Board to re-notice the application. Assembly Bill 1631 has cleared the Assembly and is awaiting Senate approval.
Wednesday’s letter means Cemex’s request that Executive Director Eileen Sobeck reconsider her decision to re-notice the mining company’s application is being denied on the grounds that “only final orders or decisions are subject to petitions for reconsideration,” in a letter citing the Water Resources Control Board’s relevant policies.
“Here, the decision to re-notice the application does not constitute a final decision or order. As the June 1, 2023, letter indicates, CEMEX’s application is still being processed, and the board has not reached a final decision or adopted an order on (Cemex’s application,” according to the agency’s response to Cemex. “For the same reasons, division staff’s resumption of processing efforts also does not constitute a final decision or order.”
The letter also stated that Cemex’s request was “premature” and that allowing such requests for consideration could result in considerable delay or disruption to the permit process.
The water board has not yet identified a date for when it is expected to make a decision on the water permit for Cemex.
Neither Cemex nor water board officials were available for comment Wednesday in response to the letter.