CEMEX gives up effort to mine Jesse Morrow Mountain

FRESNO, Calif.

CEMEX attorney Pat Mitchell told the supervisors the company got the message. "We know that some people won't believe it but believe me it's true, CEMEX decided a few days after the August hearing we were going to move past Morrow Mountain, we aren't going to mine it, that's a fact."

The company said it would sign an agreement, a restrictive covenant banning mining on the site forever. But, they also want the county to consider approving the environmental impact report for the project they are giving up on. But it was a request that didn't make sense to members of the board, or the public.

Area resident Betsy Temple told the board, "It just doesn't make sense. There's something going on here that we're not being told about."

Prompting Supervisor Phil Larson to ask CEMEX, "Is there something you are not telling us?"

CEMEX assured the board they had no hidden agenda, and they needed the EIR approved to increase the value of the property.

Company spokesperson Jolene Polyack told Action News selling the land was a possibility. "We have a lot of options and we are considering all of them. That would be an option."

The restrictive covenant against mining would apply to any future property owner. So, after meeting with CEMEX officials, Marsha Burch, the attorney for the group that fought the mine, Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain Okayed the idea and the board gave it unanimous approval.

Burch told Action News, "We feel like it is a step in the right direction, obviously the best possible outcome would be for the whole mountain to go into some kind of a conservation easement or a conservancy, but this is definitely a step in the right direction."

CEMEX is supposed to file the restrictive covenant on the property by January 4th. Their attorney Pat Mitchell indicated the company might then go before the board on January 8th, seeking approval of the EIR. Mitchell explained that document cost millions to prepare, and getting it approved would increase the value of the property.

Marsha Burch says if the EIR is resubmitted the Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain will argue against it, despite the protective covenant. Burch says it makes no sense to approve and EIR for a project that isn't going to happen.

Cynicism abounds, many Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain fear the company plans to build an asphalt plant, or a rock crushing operation on the site, which will lead to the traffic and pollution problems they were trying to stop by opposing the mine.

Some even think this is all just an elaborate stalling technique and CEMEX will to get the mining project approved again next year. CEMEX maintains it has no plans to do anything with the Jesse Morrow Mountain site.

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