2017-08-30 / Front Page

Public comment sought about sand mine plans

by Kate Shunney

U.S. Silica has applied for a permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to extend their mining operation to a 39-acre parcel of land between its existing quarry operation and downtown Berkeley Springs.

The permit application is now open for public comment, according to a Public Notice published in this week’s Messenger.

The Frederick, Md.-based sandmine company has asked the state agency to approve a “swap” of 39.7 acres under their existing quarry permit for the same amount of land further south of the current mine operation to the west of U.S. 522.

The swap area being sought would be across from the intersection with Jimstown Road.

Company officials have previously said the move of mining operations will extend the life of the Berkeley Springs mine and processing plant, as sandstone deposits elsewhere in the quarry are being mined out.

Local residents were alerted to the possibility of the change in mining operations last August when those living in the North Berkeley/Jimstown area were notified by U.S. Silica that they could be moving blasting operations within 1500 feet of their homes.

The sand mine retained the services of Vibra-Tech, a structural survey company based out of Frederick, to do free surveys of homes, wells, springs and cisterns within 1500 feet of the proposed new mining area. Homeowners were told the surveys would give U.S. Silica baseline information about the homes and structure in case blasting in the area was blamed for damage to structures.

A May 1975 blast at the sandmine hurled large boulders into homes in Jimstown. Mine officials say blasting techniques are different now, and a similar event is unlikely.

Residents who attended an open house at U.S. Silica last spring questioned the effects of bringing mining closer to downtown Berkeley Springs. Several pressed company officials with questions about water sources and concerns that blasting could disturb the town’s underground mineral springs. Company geologists said they see no danger in bringing the mining operation further south.

The area the company expects to mine has been mined before, but not in recent decades.

The DEP is seeking public comment about U.S. Silica’s mine permit modification application for the next 30 days. A copy of the application is available for review at the DEP office in Philipi and at the Morgan County Clerk’s office in the courthouse.

As of press time, the Clerk’s office said they had not received the application document, which is for public review.

Comments about the permit (Q104091) can be sent to: West Virginia DEP, 47 School Street, Suite 301, Philippi, WV 26416-1600.

The DEP can be reached at 304-457-3219.

Return to top