Friday, March 6, 2015

Mineral Resource Planning

I did a volunteer stint on the Whatcom County Surface Mining Advisory Committee (SMAC). The SMAC is charged with providing recommendations on goals and policies associated with surface mining in the County - mostly around sand, gravel and rock aggregate resources. We worked through various goals and policies which informed the development of specific regulations and possibly in the future designation of mineral lands protection The protection of mineral lands is to reduce development potential near and over future mine areas so that the aggregate material can remain available in the future.

For many years Whatcom County has had a policy of designating a 50-year supply. I have never cared for that concept. Two reasons:

1) Why be so short sited? If high quality material is available, it should be protected for use by future generations. Just because a deposit is not likely to be mined in the near future does not mean it won't be valuable in some future time when development expands or other resources are used up.

2) The 50-year supply number is a bit of reach to achieve in Whatcom County due to the lack of available resource. The lack of 50-year supply has been used by some industry folks as an argument for adding areas where there are rather intense conflicts with other County policies. Examples pressure to mine areas on high quality agricultural soils or rock quarries requiring blasting next to residential homes and view areas.

One very good reason to have the county do the set asides versus the current industry application process is that it will clarify the predictability of where mining will take place far into the future and clarify the conflicts between the resource and other resources.

It should also clarify the need to be able to import aggregate at the Bellingham waterfront. A message that needs to be incorporated into any city's waterfront planning and so far not taken seriously by Bellingham (notes-on-demise-of-a-port).

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