Permitting process delays King Road Mine by one year

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By The Staff

Levy County's hopes for growing business in the county has been dealt a second setback with the announcement that Tarmac America is moving the start date for construction of the King Road Mine from 2010 to 2011.

The company said the delay is due to a longer than anticipated permitting and review schedule for the limerock mine in south Levy County. Company officials had planned on a four-year  process but now expect it could take five years.

The announcement comes after Progress Energy said there would be a 20-month delay in the start of construction on a $16 billion two-unit nuclear plant across adjacent to the proposed mining operation.

A lengthy permitting process was cited in the electric producer's announcement in May that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission would not allow excavation and site preparation work to be done while the NRC considers the combined operating license for the power plant.

Both projects were seen as a way of lifting Levy County from the economic doldrums. The county has had unemployment over 11 percent for several months and the biggest private employer — Monterey Boats — has laid off its staff. The average commute for Levy residents is 26-32 minutes with most working in neighboring Alachua, Marion and Citrus counties.

County leaders, in announcing the two projects, had hailed them as a way to provide employment and an opportunity to keep young people in Levy County.

Jeff Harris, plant manager for the King Road Mine, said, “The list of mandatory permits, along with the many studies and reports we’ve completed on our own, is extremely lengthy and involved.

“Much of the review is conducted by a third party reviewer so once the documents are submitted by Tarmac, the schedule for review and approval is outside our control.  We now realize our initial schedule may have been a bit ambitious.”

The King Road Mine, located in southern Levy County, had been scheduled to begin construction in 2010, with plant operations beginning in 2012. Plans are now to begin construction in 2011 with the mine opening in 2013.

Tarmac is currently pursuing a number of environmental permits required for the King Road Mine project.  An Environmental Impact Study is being prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers.  The Corps permit is the only federal permit required for the mine, and involves review from several other federal agencies.

Other environmental permits currently in the application process include those from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The project will also need a special exception and operating permit from Levy County. The Levy County application, according to Harris, will be submitted once Tarmac is further along with state and federal environmental permitting.

Harris noted Tarmac has been evaluating and studying the King Road Mine site for more than five years in an effort to ensure the company has adequately addressed any potential environmental issues prior to the mine’s opening.

“Not only have we conducted initial studies to confirm the suitability of the site, but we have corroborated these findings with secondary studies,” said Harris. “The bottom line is that we are moving through the process in a very deliberate way to ensure we’ve answered every question and concern.”

Once open, the King Road Mine will produce about 3 million tons a year of construction-grade limestone aggregate used to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure. The mine site covers 4,800 acres, with plans to mine about 25 acres a year. About 800 acres consisting of streams and flow ways will be protected. An additional 4,500 adjacent acres next to Waccasassa Bay State Preserve are proposed for preservation.

The King Road Mine expects to employ 60 people in the construction phase and 35 full-time positions once mining operations begin. An economic report indicated up to 200 spin-off jobs could be created throughout the region as a direct result of the King Road Mine.

Progress Energy Florida owns about 5,100 acres in southern Levy County — located about two miles from the town of Inglis — for construction of the two nuclear reactors. If built, the new plant would employ approximately 800 full-time, employees and generate another 1,000 to 2,000 indirect jobs. The construction is expected to employ about 3,000 people. Construction is expected to be under way in 2011.

If approved and built, the project would be among the first nuclear plants in the country to be constructed on a greenfield site in more than 30 years.