Board hears mine matter

Published 12:38 am Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Some 45 people crowded into the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting room Monday night, most to show their concern about an open-pit mine proposed for an area off of U.S. Highway 17 in southern Beaufort County.

The county commissioners were not expected to take a stand on the issue but promised that a public meeting on the proposal would be held in the coming weeks to give local residents the chance to ask questions about the project.

Like most of the 11 people who spoke to the board during a 30-minute public comment period of the meeting, Bob Distephano, a resident of the Blount’s Creek area, said he was concerned about a proposal to discharge 9 million gallons of water a day into the headwaters of the creek.

“We’re talking about flushing the entire Blount’s Creek every 100 days,” he said. “You’re talking about wiping out 12 crabbing jobs to get 18 mining jobs.”

Martin Marietta Materials Inc., has received a permit to dig a 649-acre open-pit aggregate mine that would be about 100 feet deep along with a rock-crushing operation and associated activities on a 1,664-acre site about seven miles east of U.S. Highway 17 on the board of Craven and Beaufort counties.

While the proposed mine will destroy about seven acres of wetlands, its primary effects on the environment will come from pumping some nine million gallons of water a day from the Castle-Hayne Aquifer to drain the mine and the discharge of that water into two tributaries of Blount’s Creek, according to local environmental groups, fisheries officials and others who have studied the project.

Most of the speakers at the county commissioners meeting echoed Distephano’s concerns.

“To me, some of the information that has been released is frightening,” said local resident Carolyn Harding.

The speakers also asked the county commissioners to help the county’s residents to stay informed about the project and asked for their support for a thorough environmental review of the project.

“I am asking the commissioners to call for an adequate and thorough environmental study and a public hearing on the project,” said local resident Kathleen Taylor.

The project is currently under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.