Attorney urges rejection of hard rock mining request in Renville County

OLIVIA -- An attorney for Renville County has advised the county to reject a request by Duininck Bros. Inc. to continue hard rock mining along the Minnesota River.

OLIVIA -- An attorney for Renville County has advised the county to reject a request by Duininck Bros. Inc. to continue hard rock mining along the Minnesota River.

Attorney Scott Anderson of Ratwick, Roszak and Maloney in Minneapolis told the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the Duininck Bros. request to continue mining at its quarry -- located alongside the Minnesota River in violation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act -- should be rejected. Anderson is the county's attorney on environmental matters.

Speaking in blunt terms, Anderson also urged the county to consider court action to have the company fulfill its obligations to remove stockpiled rock and reclaim the site in Beaver Falls Township near the city of Redwood Falls.

"I don't think you have any doubt on where I stand on this,'' said Anderson.

State law makes it clear that hard rock mining is not allowed in the area protected by the state's Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, where the quarry is located, according to Anderson.


The Minnesota River is protected by the state's Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in five counties -- Lac qui Parle, Chippewa, Renville, Redwood and Yellow Medicine. The original permit issued to Duininck Bros. was issued in error.

Renville County Commissioners took no action Tuesday on the Duininck Bros. request. The meeting was held as a work session. Commissioners are expected to consider their response to the company's request for an extension at the next meeting.

Renville County had previously approved a two-year "exit'' permit with Duininck Bros. Construction of Prinsburg, and that permit expired at the start of this year. It called for the company to remove the rock it had stockpiled there under an earlier five-year conditional use permit and reclaim the site.

There are still large piles of unprocessed rock that had been mined at the quarry, and the site has not been reclaimed, according to Anderson.

As a result, Anderson says that Duininck Bros. is in violation of its contract with the county. Anderson told the commissioners that the county's recourse at this point would be to ask the court to enforce the contract and require Duininck Bros. to reclaim the site. "They have not lived up to the agreement. The county certainly has,'' he said.

The permit requires the company to cover the mined area with a 6-inch layer of topsoil planted with native vegetation.

Last month, the commissioners heard a request from company president Harris Duininck for an extension to allow mining to continue there. Duininck told the commissioners that the proper way to reclaim the site would be to allow continued mining. That would allow the company to slope the rock.

Harris Duininck also indicated that it had made a considerable investment in the site and would suffer financial damage if the county did not extend its permit.


Duininck also complained that action by the Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District to protect two small wetlands identified in the quarry last year had hindered its operations there.

With those issues in mind, the county commissioners questioned whether the county would be subject to litigation by the company.

Anderson dismissed those fears.

"You are in a great legal position,'' said Anderson. "Anybody who tells you otherwise is stamping their feet and raising a lot of smoke.''

He told the commissioners that the county was acting according to the law when it approved an exit permit after discovering that the original conditional use permit had been issued in error. The quarry was originally permitted by both the county and Department of Natural Resources without knowledge that the site was within the protected district of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The courts would not act against the county for correcting its original mistake by rejecting requests for a new permit, according to Anderson.

And, he warned that the courts would look unfavorably on action at this point to extend the permit. An extension of the permit would leave the perception that the county and company were acting to skirt the law.

Jason Ver Steeg, director of engineering for Duininck Bros. Construction, said after the meeting Tuesday that the company would wait for the county's action before deciding what to do about the site. He said the company has a lot of rock still to remove from the site. Its reclamation costs will be much greater if further mining activities are prohibited there, Ver Steeg said.


He also said that there is a growing need for the high-quality aggregate that was mined at the site. Its closing will adversely affect the available supplies for road building and construction needs in the region, he said.

The issue in Renville County is being watched by the citizens' group Clean Up Our River Environment, which has urged that the law protecting the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act district be followed. CURE director Patrick Moore said after the meeting that he applauded the manner in which Renville County has handled the case, and now urges that the county move to close down the site and order its reclamation be completed.

Moore said CURE is also concerned about where Duininck Bros. will go next for aggregate. He said the organization will continue to demand that policy-makers protect the area's natural resources and not allow the region to become "the sacrifice area for the sprawling Twin Cities metropolitan area's unending appetite for aggregate.''

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