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Developer says South Levy mine enviro-friendly

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By Jeff M. Hardison

Albert W. Townsend, director of real estate and environmental services for Tarmac America, wants people to know the proposed mine in southern Levy County is unique - just as all mines are different from each other.

It is named King Road Mine.

This site has high quality limestone, and is among the few places where such rock exists in Florida, Townsend said. This aggregate material is a vital resource for construction and it is in short supply, he said.

There are only five general regions in Florida where construction quality limestone exists, Townsend said. Aggregate material is found in Miami, in Southwest Florida (Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties), in the area of Hernando, Citrus, Sumter and Levy counties, and in the area of Taylor and Dixie counties.

Tarmac is leasing a 9,377-acre site from Plum Creek Timberlands on the west side of U.S. Highway 19 about five miles north of Inglis to create a 4,796-acre mining operation. The land is zoned for Forestry/Rural Residential uses by Levy County. King Road enters the center portion of the area to be mined.

The remaining 4,581 acres is a potential preservation site for mitigation of environmental impacts, Townsend said.

One part of this process is to be approved by the Levy County Board of County Commissioners to operate a mine at this site.

Tarmac applied for its third special exception to zoning codes in this area. This special exception is to mine rock. The first special exception was for a test pit. The second special exception was to build a $37 million dragline on the site.

The mine spokesman explained the mining process.

Townsend said the dragline takes limerock from as deep as 120 feet below the surface after it has been released by blasting. This wet rock is put next to the pit on a bank where it dries some. A conveyor then takes the damp rock material to an onsite location, where it is crushed to various sizes.

This crushed rock is rinsed by using about 22 million gallons of water a day. About 21 million gallons of that water returns daily to a lake where it is again used to rinse more rocks. There is a loss of one million gallons of water a day from it percolating into the ground or evaporating into the air, Townsend said.

He said this closed system does not send silt into the Floridan Aquifer. Hydrologists studied water levels, direction of flow and water quality at this site, Townsend said.

"Environmentally," he said, "this is a good, friendly project."

The only chemical pollutant is from the blasting gel, he said. The company will protect 800 acres of wetland to preserve animals and vegetation there, he said.

It is a very delicate balance of how Tarmac will use water in its mining process, he said, to assure environmental preservation. Approximately 50 percent of the lakes to be created by the process will be filled to be level with the surrounding land after the area is mined, he said.

In regard to the flow of water on this property, the water table is 12 feet higher on the eastern edge than on the west. The water flows due west, he said. This water will not flow south or southwest to Inglis or Yankeetown, he said.

As for saltwater intrusion, Tarmac drilled a 380-foot deep well and continued finding water suitable for drinking.

An estimated 500 truckloads of limerock will leave the site daily, he said. The target area is Ocala, Gainesville, Northwest Orlando and northern Tampa, he added. Forty percent of the trucks will go south and the remainder will go west or northwest, he said.