Four state legislators, including two from Santa Fe, oppose a basalt mine proposed for La Bajada Mesa over concerns about the operation’s water use and its impact on the landscape.
In a Jan. 31 letter sent to Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian, the lawmakers say the mine will require too much water from the county and will hurt the viewshed from Interstate 25. The letter is signed by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos.
Buena Vista Estates and Rockology have asked to Santa Fe County to rezone a 50-acre parcel on the mesa near Waldo Canyon Road and have applied to open a basalt mine. The mine would produce construction aggregate for the next 25 years from three open pits, according to the application.
The County Commission will consider the application at a public meeting Feb. 20.
“Unfortunately, the site is one that lacks its own source of water, is along a narrow and aging road, and is highly visible from I-25,” the lawmakers’ letter said. “The visual impact can hardly be overstated and the inevitable deleterious effect on the landscape and the subsequent negative impact on tourism, can easily be imagined.”
The mine will need water for both drinking and dust control. The companies have applied to transfer water rights for the mine, but that application hasn’t yet been approved by the state engineer. According to the application, the mine site would contain two 10,000-gallon water tanks. Water for the tanks would be purchased from Santa Fe County at the 24-hour automated bulk water dispensing facility at 13-B Camino Justicia off N.M. 14. There’s no annual fee for the water, and the commercial cost is 2 cents per gallon.
“Given the distance to the mine from the nearest county water hookup and the large amounts of water that are required for a mine of this size, we think it is unwise for the County to provide water to this project,” the lawmakers said in their letter.
The application claims the mine would use just under 3 acre-feet of water per year, about a million gallons.
Steve Hooper, who owns Rockology, said the mine will provide about a dozen jobs and bring in about $122,000 in gross receipts revenues to the county.
Lawmakers are asking the county to put a moratorium on mining until new regulations can be drafted, similar to actions Santa Fe County took to craft a new oil and gas ordinance.
Wirth and Egolf support creating a La Bajada Mesa National Monument. But Egolf said that would not protect the mesa from the proposed mine.
Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock.