A group of concerned residents in Spruce Pine, N.C. attended a town hall meeting on Feb. 13 to express discontent with a proposed re-zoning of land that would allow the disposal of bulk feldspar and processed mineral waste in their community.
In December 2011, Quartz Co., with Feldspar Corporation, purchased more than 100 acres of land nestled in the heart of Spruce Pine’s major residential area, despite the acreage being zoned for residential use. Quartz/Feldspar Co. has proposed using 35 acres of the tract as a dump site for mine tailings from their area mines and mineral process facilities. Without re-zoning the land for heavy industry, which would require unanimous approval from the town council, the land could not be used for mining or waste disposal activities.
Many residents have questioned why a company would purchase land for more than $1 million without the appropriate zoning needed, and expressed concern over the possibility that the re-zoning decision had already been made by the town council.
At the town meeting, questions about long-term health effects from mine tailing dust and the effect of contaminated groundwater on the local booming trout population were answered by Feldspar with general promises of preventing negative and environmental and economic impacts.
“It is said that the mining wastes are not dangerous, but no thorough reports have been proposed,” argued Spruce Pine resident Cathy Sky. Like Cathy, many in attendance were worried that the zoning review process is being rushed and that the health and safety concerns surrounding a mining waste site within city limits are not being fully considered.