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Mine’s operators try to drill down on the positive during open house

A mailbox decked with a brace of party balloons was the only thing that marked out the destination on Friday when Alamance Aggregates hosted an open house for its newly-operational quarry in the unincorporated community of Snow Camp.

This low-key event, which drew a select list of clients, associates, and local dignitaries, was nevertheless a long-time in the making for this family-owned mining concern, which applied for its first county-level permit at the end of 2017.

Although the company had an easy-enough time obtaining this “intent to construct” permit, it soon hit a much harder stratum of regulatory review when it submitted its plans to North Carolina’s state mining commission. As part of its application to the commission, the company was required to notify neighboring property owners of its intentions, which set off a veritable explosion of dread among the previously unwitting residents of Snow Camp.

Over the next three and a half years, the mine’s neighbors fought tooth and nail to keep the proposed mine out of their idyllic corner of Alamance County. Nor did their objections elude the state’s mining commission, which put the mine’s would-be operators through their paces before it finally signed off on the project this past winter.

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Even now, there are still yard signs that declare “No Snow Camp Mine” tucked amid the rolling hills and rough country roads of Snow Camp. But these lingering traces of opposition don’t seem to have dampened the spirit of Drew Boggs, a co-owner of Alamance Aggregates, who was eager to present the facility’s best face during the open house Friday.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Boggs assured The Alamance News during the mid-day get-together. “We want to be a good corporate citizen, and we want to give back to the community.”

The guest list for Friday’s event was noticeably bereft of the neighbors who’ve been especially adamant in their opposition to the new mine. It nevertheless included a fair number of local movers and shakers, including at least three of the five county commissioners and officials from the Snow Camp volunteer fire department.

Among the activities that awaited these invitees were a free raffle and a short-order lunch under a covered canopy. Those who were inclined could also take guided tours of the site – and gawk at the state-of-the-art machinery that Alamance Aggregates uses to extract crushed stone from the unyielding bedrock.

During one of these tours, Chad Threatt, an executive with Alamance Aggregates, extolled the versatility and efficiency of this rock crushing equipment, which he noted can be powered with diesel fuel or plugged directly into the power grid when fuel prices get out of control. Threatt also touted the top-notch emission standards of this machinery, whose “Tier 4” ratings are the highest currently available on the industrial market.

Another point of pride for Threatt and his colleagues are the precautions they’ve taken to minimize the mine’s impact on its immediate surroundings. These reductive measures include the carefully-controlled blasts that Alamance Aggregates uses to soften up the solid bedrock before its extraction. Although there were no live demonstrations during the open house, a video of one recent blast was making the rounds thanks to Tom Terrell, a Greensboro-based lawyer who has served as the mine’s legal counsel.

“I recorded this for people to see what the blasting is like,” Terrell explained during the open house, “and it’s not really an explosion. It’s more of a ‘floosh’ that lasts for about two seconds.”

These blasts, which are handled by a third-party contractor, are monitored by a collection of seismographs that Alamance Aggregates has set up at certain strategic locations, including two along a natural gas main that’s owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company. Threatt emphasized that the measurements at these locations must never exceed a level of 1.0 – a reading that’s well below the threshold of human perception.

In addition to this seismological monitoring system, Alamance Aggregates has also implemented various erosion control measures to limit the mine’s impact on its surroundings. In particular, Threatt called his tour group’s attention to the lush field grasses that cover much of the site – a feature that he said he’d one day like to share with the rest of the world.

“We maintain our site very well, and we want people to see it,” he added. “And a little down the road, we’d like to do field trips.”

At this point, however, the wider community hasn’t been entirely receptive to what it has seen of the mine’s operations.

In recent months, neighboring residents have repeatedly complained about truck traffic en route to quarry, which is located off of Clark Road in the southernmost depths of Alamance County. Boggs noted that the NC. Department of Transportation has already begun to make improvements along Clark Road to accommodate the comings and goings of these heavier vehicles.

In the meantime, reports from the community also alerted county officials to something of a false start in the mine’s operations.

Boggs acknowledged that he and his colleagues hadn’t fully addressed some of the county’s mandated punch list items when they ramped up their activity earlier this spring. The discovery of these loose ends ultimately prompted the county to impose some $16,500 in fines on Alamance Aggregates – a penalty that Boggs concedes was very much in order given the circumstances.

“We had 98 percent of that list done,” he recalled. “But there were just a few things that were not finished, and we started operating before these few things were done. So, they had to fine us for that, and we hand delivered the check for that amount.”

Boggs added that, in the future, he hopes that Alamance Aggregates will overcome this fitful start to be increasingly accepted as a valuable member of the local business community. His efforts to cultivate a more positive image seem to have already borne fruit with the Snow Camp fire department, whose chief Gene Wellons was among the guests at Friday’s event.

During the open house, Alamance Aggregates formally presented Wellons with a new John Deere gator for his firefighters to use in the field. This gesture was certainly not lost on the department’s chief, as he admitted in a brief conversation that afternoon.

“A lot of our district is inaccessible to our trucks,” Wellons told The Alamance News. “So, it’s going to be a huge help…and we’re glad to have them here in our community.”

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