Digging In

Rarely do we find Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and Republican Sen. Dean Heller on the same side of an issue these days. Add to their team the entire Clark County Commission and thousands of residents of Henderson, plus a contingent of environmentalists, and you’ve got the diverse coalition that opposes two proposed gravel mines at Sloan Hills, three miles southwest of the Anthem, Seven Hills and Inspirada subdivisions.

But as of now, the proposals by CEMEX and Service Rock Products are still on the table. The companies want to buy rights from the Bureau of Land Management to dig two open-pit limestone and dolomite quarries, which would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’d be blasting and drilling, polluting the air, consuming massive amounts of water—even BMI’s environmental impact statement says the operations wouldn’t be without hazards. The companies initially expressed interest in 2006 and 2007, and under federal law BMI can sell or grant mineral-use permits. In this case, BMI would accept bids from the companies. But earlier this month, nearby residents turned up en masse at Coronado High to oppose the plan—as they have before. The BLM will receive public comment until Dec. 5, after which it will make a decision whether to make the land available for bids.

The companies proposing the mine say it will create jobs. They say it’ll make the construction of new projects in Las Vegas easier—and who doesn’t want to hear about new construction, new jobs?

Well, in this case, thousands of locals, and their congressional representatives, and their county representatives don’t— because some things are more important, such as taking care of the community we’ve already built.

And protecting the extraordinary history that exists nearby: In addition to encroaching on neighborhoods, the proposed 640-acre mine site is 500 feet from the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, which contains some 300 petroglyphs from native cultures, thought to be more than 1,000 years old.

The result of this battle between quality of life and easy money—Mexico-based CEMEX is the world’s largest building materials supplier, active in more than 50 countries— will say a lot about our priorities and effectiveness as a community. Let’s hope we don’t blow it up.