Tillis tours Aurora Fossil Museum, Nutrien

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2019

AURORA — It’s not every day a U.S. Congressman shows up in Aurora, but that’s what happened last week as U.S. Senator Thom Tillis paid a visit to the town, touring the Aurora Fossil Museum and Nutrien’s mining operations.

“There were multiple organizations trying to get him to Aurora,” Aurora Fossil Museum Director Cynthia Crane said. “I was thrilled that he was able to come and spend a few minutes at the Aurora Fossil Museum and to share with him what we do and how we do it. It was a wonderful opportunity for the museum and for the town.”

Aside from discussing a mutual interest in fossils, Crane and Tillis spoke about the museum’s funding sources and the vision for the facility moving forward.

“It helps a great deal to have a few minutes of attention from key figures,” Crane said. “It’s rare. There are two senators in our state, and he could be anywhere, and he chose to spend half a day here in Aurora. It’s great to be able to show them what we do in these small communities in eastern North Carolina and that we do have an impact. He was very impressed on the amount of visitors we get through the door here in Aurora and also our impact countywide, statewide, nationally and internationally.”

Following the museum visit, Tillis toured Nutrien’s mining operations just down the road. According to Ray McKeithan, manager of public and government affairs at Nutrien, the senator spent time talking to management before climbing aboard one of the mine’s 9-million-pound draglines that are used to extract ore.

“We focused on our place in the community and the region related to jobs, economic investment and our impact on the economic health of the region, and how important the site is for employees and others in the community,” McKeithan said.

Specifically, the senator and mine managers discussed the company’s environmental stewardship efforts, safety commitments and the overall economic impact of the mine in the region.

“This is something we do as often as we can with elected officials at all levels of government,” McKeithan said. “We’ve had Senator (Richard) Burr visit as well and congressional members in the past and other local leaders and elected officials, as well. We think that’s important as far as keeping them informed, as well as an opportunity to show how we do things and what’s important to us.”