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Kaolin company withdraws application for mining

Last Thursday, kaolin mining company J.M. Huber withdrew its application for a condition use permit to mine a Sparta Kaolin-owned 209 acre site in the area of Margarets Road, Wisham Road, Moose Club Road and White Oak Road near Thomson.

A letter the company sent to County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton stated that a study would take place to see how all of the public's concerns brought forth during the Planning Commission hearing on Oct. 3 could be addressed. Commissioners were scheduled to make a final ruling on the application during their Oct. 17 meeting.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of the application after hearing from hundreds of angry residents who live near the proposed mine area. In the letter, Ken Coxen, land manager for J.M. Huber, said the process did not sufficiently allow for the exploration of solutions to citizen concerns.

"In summary, the (Planning Commission) Board hearing seemed to be for the sole purpose of counting the number of residents in opposition than for exploring solutions to legitimate community concerns," Mr. Coxen's letter states, adding that the meeting was company representatives' first time hearing about public concerns.

According to the letter, the company plans to reapply should its study demonstrate that the major concerns can be dealt with in a satisfactory manner for all involved. Because the application did not make it to the Commission, J.M. Huber can resubmit the application at any time.

Mr. Coxen also stated in the letter that the kaolin mining industry employs approximately 100 people in McDuffie County and that the yearly economic impact of the mining operations was upwards of $10 million.

McDuffie County Planning and Zoning Director Fred Guerrant briefly mentioned the application withdrawal during Tuesday's Commission meeting as a way to officially update commissioners.

Chairman Newton was satisfied with the company's status on the mine saying that the application withdrawal was the right move because company officials were unaware of the opposition they would face.

"Basically, they said 'Whatever you want us to do, we'll do it to make this thing work.'" Chairman Newton said. "And that's fine, telling us that, but they need to get together something to show the residents living in that area, here's what we're doing."

Web posted on Thursday, October 19, 2006

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