Proposed granite mine brings neighbors together to oppose it

CHESTER COUNTY, N.C. — At first, word of a massive proposed granite mine stunned residents in northern Chester County near Interstate 77.

Over the last two months, they've organized to fight the project in the rural area.

They are worried about hundreds of trucks a day hauling rock from the quarry, damaging roads, kicking up dust and making noise.

Dawn Scarboro has more than 50 goats on a farm on Fishing Creek Church Road.  She runs a creamery that makes goat cheese. It's a small business she's still trying to build.

However, she worries the quiet of her farm will be ruined if a 250-acre granite quarry is allowed to open just down the road near I-77.

"I don't want it here at all. I'm worried about the pollution, the trucks and the dust," Scarboro said.

She also is concerned about the possible impact on the well water supply in the area.

Alan Smith lives nearby and is concerned about the 30-year mining permit Hardrock Aggregates of Charlotte is seeking.

"What's going to happen to this mine down the road? This operator would not give us any of his history with other mines of this size in either North or South Carolina," Smith said.

"We've all heard the expression about square pegs and round holes. The embodiment of such expression is on display right now in our Chester County community where the square peg is a granite mine and the round hole is a piece of floodplain property bounded by wetlands, fishing creek and one of the few populations of endangered Carolina heelsplitter existing in the world," said Dr. Bill Altman, a local resident, master naturalist and retired nuclear scientist.

The Carolina heelsplitter, which is a federally protected endangered species, was the first major, unexpected obstacle the proposed mine faced. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the section of fishing creek adjacent to the mine as occupied habitat for the endangered freshwater mussel and has expressed concerns about how the mine's discharges and groundwater uses will impact the heelsplitter.

"In my experience as an environmental lawyer, it is extraordinarily unusual for a proposed project to have this type of direct connection to the health of a documented population of endangered animals," environmental lawyer Michael Corley said. “And that says nothing of the other legally protected wildlife at issue. A comment letter from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources identified several vulnerable fish species designated under our state wildlife action plan that live in this section of fishing creek and are at risk from this project.”

Corley has expressed his doubts that a mine can be designed for that particular property that adequately protects water quality and the vulnerable species.

"I've never seen a mine proposed on a more incompatible piece of property," Corley said.

On Tuesday, Channel 9 spoke to Jerry Meade, an environmental manager with Hardrock Aggregates.

He said they are still doing environmental studies, but said most of the granite will be hauled out by rail once a railroad spur is built. He believes the impact to the surrounding community will be minimal.

"The people opposing this don't have any way of knowing if this will impact them. They just don't want it," Meade said.

He said he would comment further on the project when studies are finished and more is known about what was found on the property.

The group opposed to the mine will meet again on at 6:30 p.m. on June 28 at the West Chester Community Center.

Channel 9 attempted to contact the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Tuesday for information on the process and where the permit for the mine stands.

We did not hear back from DHEC by late afternoon.