It was recently announced by NexGen Silica and Friends of Hawn Association the two have come to an agreement regarding the issuance of the Land Reclamation permit from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
According to a release by the Friends of Hawn, when the organization became aware of NexGen’s proposed silica mine, the organization was concerned about the impact to Hawn State Park and other natural areas due to potential impacts from the facility. Friends of Hawn had challenged the decision due to concerns.
During the challenge against the permit, NexGen and Friends of Hawn started to engage in conversations regarding the concerns Friends of Hawn had. According to NexGen, the company had several specifications and designs in its original and existing site plan which had been unknown to Friends of Hawn. NexGen presented and explained the practices and strategies designed for NexGen’s proposed mine site under the leadership of Clark Bollinger, the general manager of NexGen Silica who has more than 30 years of mining experience.
Friends of Hawn states during the discussion, NexGen committed to binding itself and its successors to commitments above and beyond what the DNR could have required of them.
According to NexGen, in addition to being subjected to overview and enforcement by the Mining Safety and Health Administration, DNR, and Environmental Protection Agency, NexGen voluntarily included proposed site designs and procedures surpassing the standards of its respective industry, as well as those required by the mentioned government agencies. NexGen says it is glad to allow the Friends of Hawn to hold the company to the same standard.
The agreement resulted in the following:
• NexGen will have to ensure additional resources are available to reclaim affected land by increasing the surety bond amount before any overburden is removed from the site. The previous amount originally required $61,500 and was increased to $200,000. The increase in money cannot be used to cover future expansions of the permitted area, and must be secured and bound to the State of Missouri to ensure it will be available to the DNR to reclaim the site if NexGen is unable or otherwise fails to fulfill the obligation.
• NexGen will have to address the concern of light pollution by using outdoor lighting fixtures at the site to prevent glare and light pollution. This includes parameters preventing the use of harsh ultra-white and ultra-blue lights often seen at commercial sites. NexGen’s site plans also incorporate a strategy where light will not spill over into neighboring properties, public right of way, or result in a glare visible form off-site.
• NexGen will also have to address the concern of noise pollution by limiting the blasting activities. With the agreement, NexGen can only blast between the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There is an exception though, as during the first 90 days of operation, NexGen will be allowed to blast during the six hour timeframe as described. The only exception after the first 90 days is in the event of an emergency, which was included out of concern for the safety of NexGen employees.
• To help further address the concern of noise pollution, NexGen has planned the construction and maintenance of an earthen berm of at least 30 feet in height between the facility and Highway 32. In addition, the berm and the space from the berm to the highway will be filled with a variety of native pollinating plant and tree species to reduce noise as well as offer native wildlife habitat in the area.
“The Friends of Hawn respect and appreciate NexGen’s willingness to discuss and respond to these concerns,” said the organization. “We are pleased to have been able to secure these commitments and conclude our challenge to the issuance of NexGen’s mining permit.
“We recognize this settlement does not resolve all of our concerns regarding the proposed facility, for example, we continue to have concerns regarding the yet to be issued permit from the Water Protection Program and the effect on area water resources. Accordingly, the Friends of Hawn will continue to monitor the process and raise concerns or legal challenge as it deems appropriate.”
Jake Meyer, a member of marketing and sales with NexGen, said the company is open to talking to anyone about the mine, no matter the person or what the person’s stance is for the mine.
“We’ve made it very clear to anyone, regardless of who they affiliate themselves with, that we are so open to talking to absolutely everyone,” said Meyer. “Whether they oppose us, whether they’re for us, whether they’re neutral and they just want to understand, we would love to talk to absolutely anyone about what our intentions are.”
Meyer said he does not have an idea of when the water permit decision will be available.
Friends of Hawn wants to make it clear the organization has not aligned with the company, but have secured legally enforceable protections for the benefit of Hawn State Park, surrounding natural areas, and the local community.
“We know there is some confusion about our position, so to be clear the Friends of Hawn is not aligned with NexGen, regardless of the spin in some circles and the selective use of two sentences from our multi-page press release,” explained the organization. “It is important to understand, our settlement does not resolve any other legal challenge brought by any other party. Though some may not agree with our decision and we respect those opinion, we must not let others sow division. In the end, we are all in this together doing the best we can, with the resources we have, against a well-funded adversary.”
Any issues or questions about NexGen can be directed to the company either through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at nexgensilica.com/contact. Friends of Hawn can be followed online at friendsofhawn.org, or through Facebook under Friends of Hawn Association.
Danielle Thurman is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be contacted at email@example.com or 573-518-3616.