The Fresno County planning commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for an aggregate operation and asphalt plant east of Sanger, Calif. The proposed Carmelita mine, situated amidst the stone fruit orchards of Gerawan Farms, is located two miles south of Highway 180 on Reed Avenue near Sanger. The site is just west of Jesse Morrow Mountain where Cemex had been planning a 1.5 million tpy aggregate mine before being denied by the planning commission in May.
The project calls for an 886-acre operation surrounded by a buffer of farmland. The mine would “dig up to mine sand and gravel and make asphalt for the construction of buildings, roads and bridges.” Around 1.25 million tpy of aggregate would be mined over the next 100 years to a depth of 50 ft. Under the proposal, operators would also reclaim the land back to fruit trees and other agricultural uses as they move to new areas.
Gerawan Farms, which grows 10,000 acres of stone fruit in Fresno County, proposed the mine two years ago under the argument that the stony ground at the site was poor for agriculture but ideal for extracting rocks.
Opponents of the project, including the Sanger group Friends of the Kings River, spoke at length before the planning commission on concerns ranging from air and water pollution, the unlikelihood of reclaiming the land after mining and increased vehicle traffic of up to 700 truck trips per day. Several also said the demand of the project was also inflated in the project's environmental documents.
One pointed out that three mining projects have been approved while construction has slowed since a 2006 geological survey by the Department of Conservation showed that the Fresno-Madera region was short 629 million tons of aggregate over the next 50 years. Mines totaling around 113 million tons during their lifetimes have been approved since 2006.
Opponents of the Carmelita mine may still appeal the planning commission's decision before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.