Digging for the details

Published 12:32 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Martin Marietta reps will field questions about proposed mine

The public will have a chance to ask company officials questions about a rock quarry proposed for southern Beaufort County during a public meeting set for 6 p.m. today at the Beaufort County Courthouse.

Martin Marietta Materials representatives are expected to be in Washington to answer questions about the company’s plans to operate an open-pit mine about seven miles east of U.S. Highway 17 and on the border of Beaufort and Craven counties.

In its application, Martin Marietta Materials proposes to mine marine limestone that would be crushed into rocks of various sizes for use by the N.C. Department of Transportation in road construction and others in residential and commercial building projects near Washington and New Bern.

The mine, if the permits for its operation are approved, would be in operation for about 50 years and be similar to the Clarks Quarry operated by Martin Marietta Materials near New Bern and four other mining operations owned by the company in eastern North Carolina.

In various project-related filings sent to government agencies, Martin Marietta Materials contends the mine is needed to help keep road-construction costs down. The project has raised concerns among local officials and some environmental advocates about its effects on groundwater wells in the area and the fish and fisheries habitat in Blount’s Creek, a tributary of the Pamlico River.

This is just the first of two public meetings that have been planned for the project.

The N.C. Division of Water Quality has announced plans to hold a public hearing later this year before it considers issuing two needed permits for the project.

No date has been set for that hearing.

The state is considering an application from the company for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System seeking a permit from the state to discharge about 9 million gallons of water a day into two tributaries of Blount’s Creek.

Martin Marietta Materials also is required to seek state approval for the project because the proposed mine will affect wetlands and man-made ditches that are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.