Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cemex Continues to Eradicate Mountainside

Click on image to enlarge. A long, long time ago when the McKelligon Canyon Quarry was not. Sugar Loaf  Mountain is on the far right in the foreground.

Aerial of Cemex Quarry, 2014. Sugar Loaf is center right.
Photo by Scott Cutler

I was interviewed today by Daniela Pardo of KTSM El Paso. She and her crew met me at the Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park to talk about the Cemex quarry. KTSM is working on a story to air next week. The interview helped me to focus on quarrying and especially on the painful quarrying at Cemex's McKelligon Canyon operation. 

I understand the need to mind rock, sand, gravel and limestone. We need these materials for our homes, our roads, our sidewalks and, to some extent our landscaping. What I question is how much is adequate and how well we choose alternatives.

As we entered the State Park, I pointed out the use of red rock (rhyolite) to trim and landscape the entry. Much of that rock is used in our landscapes, our medians and our parkways. It comes principally from the Cemex McKelligon Canyon operation. I pointed out the caliche along the hills to the news crew. We dig up huge amounts of it all over town when we excavate for roads or buildings. Then we dump it. Why can't we use more of that in our landscaping and gouge out less of our mountains?

I know about landscapers in the Tucson area who, when digging up the caliche in the yard, then use the rock in the landscaping rather than buying rock quarried from our precious mountainsides.

With the glass recycling pilot program starting in January, El Pasoans will have yet another alternative for mulching. Rather than red rock of all sizes, we can use glass. Also, with all of the dead trees around town that many people can't afford to cut down, perhaps the City could start a mulching program. They could take down the dead trees for free, chip the wood, and use it as mulch instead of rock. 

Quarrying and especially the Cemex operation produces dust no matter how much water they spray to keep the dust down. (There's that issue of water scarcity again.) Many in the neighborhoods below Cemex have complained over the years about respiratory distress. Then there is the loss of ecosystem services and habitat. 

We just don't need this much mining and we need to find alternatives. The City of El Paso could take a giant leap toward rescuing our Franklin Mountains by refusing to buy anymore rock and setting restrictions on its use in landscaping.

Hopefully the KTSM story will be a good values clarification for El Pasoans. What are we doing to our beautiful mountain? How do my buying habits encourage the destruction of the mountains? How can my voting elect people who really care?

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