Listen Live

GarCo Passed New Mining Regulations. Could That Impact The Proposed RMI Quarry Expansion?

May 21, 2020

Heavy machinery works in the Rocky Mountain Industrials limestone quarry near Glenwood Springs in March 2020.
Credit Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Garfield County recently adopted a new set of regulations that could be applied to mining projects. The new rules – called 1041 regulations – could shape the development of the controversial Rocky Mountain Industrials (formerly Rocky Mountain Resources) expansion near Glenwood Springs. 

1041 regulations give local governments the power to make planning decisions in areas that could have statewide impact, such as airports, mass transit stops, water supplies and landfills. The county already has 1041 regulations for those areas. On May 11, they added mining, or  “mineral resource areas,” giving them extra authority to scrutinize things like quarries.

 What new powers does the county have now that these regulations are in place?

 Rules about mining used to be more broad. When the county would go through the vetting process for a new project, they didn’t always have written standards to work with. Now, the 1041 regulations come with a much clearer list of requirements when the county is processing applications for mines. 

Mining company Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI) is proposing a sizable expansion to their limestone quarry just outside Glenwood Springs, and it has been met with plenty of opposition. How will these rules impact that project? 

 That quarry is on public land. Even though it’s in Garfield County, a lot of the decision-making about its future was in the hands of the Bureau of Land Management. While the quarry is outside of city limits, people in Glenwood Springs say an expansion would make the quarry more visible and would mean more dust and trucks in town. 

Before the new regulations, it wasn’t as clear if the county could actually point to those impacts as reasons to block an expansion. 

When it comes to 1041 regulations, two of the main criteria used to judge new projects are “socioeconomic impact” and “environmental impact.” So now the county can go to mining companies and ask them to prove that a project will not be a nuisance and that mining won’t affect things like air and water quality.

Is this going to be a big hurdle for RMI?

That mostly remains to be seen. Garfield County now has the power to give RMI a list of criteria that it has to meet, and some of the things on the list will have to do with impacts that go beyond the mine site itself, like the impacts it could have on neighborhoods and businesses in Glenwood Springs.

It’s not necessarily a silver bullet that’s going to stop the project dead in its tracks. It is an additional tool that gives the county more specific regulatory power and adds another layer to the application process for RMI.

How have the new regulations been received by the public?

Out of about 80 public comments submitted, only a handful of them were in opposition. One of the comments in opposition was from RMI themselves. They argued that the regulations seem like they’re targeted at RMI and they even questioned whether the county has the resources it needs to carry out a review process like this. Public comments were mostly supportive.