Despite holding another long public hearing on Tuesday, Santa Fe County Commissioners went behind closed doors to postpone a decision on whether to allow an Albuquerque company to mine for basalt on La Bajada mesa.
Community members packed the county commission chambers for the 10 am meeting, while some watched public testimony on TVs in the Grant Avenue county administration building.
The five commissioners must decide whether to allow the company, Rockology, to mine for basalt from the 50-acre site located off Waldo Canyon Road, south of Interstate 25.
Many who testified expressed concerns about potential environmental and livability issues posed by mining for basalt.
Officials with three pueblos spoke out against the project. The governor of the Cochiti Pueblo says he had concerns about how much water the project would use and cited concerns about mining disturb religious sites. "Our ancestor spirits still reside in those sites," he testified. Current and former governors for the Tesuque and Santo Domingo pueblos spoke out against the project, too.
Representative for Rockology defended the project. Jim Siebert told commissioners, "This commissioner has never taken a position on who should be winners and who should be losers in the marketplace.
Steve Hooper told commissioners the basalt at the proposed mine site is "higher grade material" than that being blasted away at the Caja Del Rio landfill.
That matters because some officials assert there's a shortage of basalt in the local market.
Some say basalt mined from the landfill could provide a robust source of material for any shortfall of the product, which is best sold locally because of transportation costs. The Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency manages the landfill. It's been blasting away thousands of cubic yards of basalt and has a stockpile it can sell. SWaMa manages the landfill for the city and county trash, along with the recycling center, the later of which is in need of capital upgrades. Selling the basalt would give the county-city managed agency more revenue for its duties of managing both recycling and waste.
Commissioner Miguel Chavez, who is on SWaMa's board, defended that agency following assertions from Seibert and Hooper that SWaMa doesn't have the proper permitting for mining and selling its basalt, which has been extracted as officials are making a new cell in the landfill.
Dozens showed up to testify at the meeting, though county commissioners closed the public hearing and then discussed the issue secretly in executive session after a lunch break Tuesday afternoon.
A county spokeswoman says county staff and attorneys will now draw up an order, on which county commissioners will vote at an undetermined date.
County staffers have recommended that commissioners approve the rezoning request while a county development review board voted 5-2 that the request to mine the site should be denied.