Residents protest proposed shale mine

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Local residents are up in arms and promising to fight the rezoning of 75 acres in Cloverdale Township that Buzzi Unicem wants to use for a shale mine.

Putnam County Plan Commission board members will hear Buzzi's request to rezone the property on County Road 1000 South between State Road 243 and Meridian Line Road from agriculture to mineral extraction at its 7:30 p.m. meeting tonight in the Courthouse Annex, 209 W. Liberty St.

Putnam County Planner Kim Hyten said mines are heavily regulated by state authorities and the cement plant will be required to fence the perimeter of its land, install berms and keep a border between the mine and its property line.

But Phyllis and Jerry Brown, whose 40 acres borders part of the eastern side of the Buzzi property, say those restrictions aren't enough. They worry that the noise of the mining operation, the dust it kicks up and the increased truck traffic on local roadways will significantly harm the quality of life of local residents and cause local property values to plummet.

The Browns said they also feel blindsided by Buzzi's move. On Oct. 20, they received a legal notice from Buzzi notifying them of the company's intent to request a rezoning of the property bordering their homestead. The letter, however, uses technical language, giving only the four-line legal description of the property in question and says that the company wants to rezone from "A1" to "ME," using the abbreviations of the zoning districts. Nowhere does it mention that the company intends to mine the land.

Additionally, the Browns said the Buzzi's petition and other information about its request was not available at the Courthouse until 10 days after they got the letter.

"I think I cried for three days after I figured out what they wanted to do," Phyllis Brown said.

She has since collected 75 signatures on a petition from local residents who are opposed to the mining.

Hyten said the Plan Commission members will weigh the potential negative impacts of the mine on the health, safety, aesthetics and property values of surround land against the benefits to the economy when it decides whether to recommend the rezoning.

Shale is an integral ingredient in the creation of cement and mining shale typically has a much smaller environmental impact than mining limestone, said Nelson Shaffer, the head of the Coal and Industrial Minerals section of the Indiana Geological Survey.

Unlike limestone, which requires Buzzi to continually blast large chunks of limestone in order to harvest it, heavy machinery will mine shale, which is comparatively softer. The company will only need to use dynamite to blast away the 35 feet of material that sits one top of the shale, said Willie McGuire, a consultant working with Buzzi to start up the mine.

The company hopes to haul about 180,000 tons of shale a year out of the mine, he said.

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