BLM approves 100-acre expansion at Gypsum mine
Proposal means American Gypsum has an estimated 60 years of resource available for wallboard production plant
GYPSUM — U.S. economic conditions ultimately determine production decisions at the American Gypsum Company wallboard plant and mine in Gypsum, but as of right now, the operation is set for the next 60 years on the resource front.
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced it has approved a 100-acre expansion plan for the American Gypsum Company’s Eagle-Gypsum Mine.
“Approval of American Gypsum Company’s expansion by the BLM is a major milestone in extending the strategic gypsum reserves our Gypsum, Colorado facility,” said Gypsum plant manager Chuck Zaruba. “This facility employs almost 100 locals with stable, well-paying jobs. This increase in gypsum reserves serves as peace of mind for all of our employees and their families that we will be here for many decades to come.”
The open mine is located about two miles north of the Gypsum Interstate 70 interchange. The mine and its associated wallboard plant produce about 600 million square feet of drywall annually. The 100-acre expansion adds roughly 40 years to the company’s mining reserves, kicking up total mining reserves to approximately 60 years, according to Zaruba.
The BLM’s Gypsum decision followed a 30-day public comment period that began April 3. The approval allows for continued and expanded mining at the current site. Without the expansion, projections indicated that gypsum ores would be depleted within the next two decades. American Gypsum’s current gypsum mining permit area is 830 acres, with current surface disturbance at about 191 acres.
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American Gypsum is the largest mining and wallboard production operation in the state of Colorado and the third-largest employer in the town of Gypsum. The company contributes 100 jobs to the local economy for an estimated annual payroll of $6.2 million.
“Authorizing expansion of the Eagle-Gypsum Mine provides greater certainty for the future of American Gypsum, its employees, and local communities,” said BLM Colorado River Valley Field Manager Larry Sandoval. “The current mine has been in operation since 1984 and is an important contributor to the local economy.”
As noted in the environmental analysis, American Gypsum paid more than $3 million in local property taxes in 2018 dollars.
Limited public comment
The official BLM environmental assessment for the mine expansion noted there was limited public comment regarding the plan.
“I think a lot of people understand the wide impact we have in the community — the large number of local people we employ and the tax revenue streams we supply to the community and state,” said Zaruba.
Just three people attended a public scoping meeting hosted by the BLM in January and only six public comment letters were received by the agency.
The chief concern raised by members of the public was dust mitigation. One community resident noted that during the dry summer months, wind blows dust from the mine area. Another community member said that the road into Gypsum gets muddy due to haul truck traffic.
In its analysis, the BLM noted the mine has developed a fugitive dust control plan to comply with its operating permit requirements and that air pollutants at the mine are currently limited by a production rate condition established in its 1997 air quality operating permit. Because the expansion is a continuation of current operations, no permit modification was required.
The BLM analysis noted that regulation of design and resource protection features will extend to the expansion plan. Mine operations are subject to conditions of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment annual operating permit.
“To prevent dust during mining activities, the mining area and roads would continue to be sprayed with water and/or a surfactant as needed to minimize dust created by haul trucks and to achieve at least 90% control efficiency,” noted the report. “Trucks on haul roads would maintain an average vehicle speed of 20 miles per hour.
“The number of daily haul truck trips would remain consistent with current haul truck traffic because the rate of production would remain at current levels,” the BLM report continues. “The fugitive dust emissions from haul trucks delivering gypsum to the plant would be expected to remain consistent overall. American Gypsum would continue to maintain compliance with their operating permit and associated fugitive dust control plan.”
All around us
American Gypsum, the parent company of the Gypsum facility, is the fifth largest producer of gypsum wallboard in North America. The company operates four gypsum plants in total, with an annual capacity approaching four billion square feet of wallboard.
The BLM noted that gypsum, one of the most widely used minerals in the world, literally surrounds us every day. That’s especially true in the community that bears the mineral’s name.
“Most gypsum in the United States is used to make wallboard for homes, offices, and commercial buildings,” the BLM stated in its release. “According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the typical new American home contains more than 7 metric tons of gypsum alone. Gypsum is used worldwide in concrete for highways, bridges, buildings, and many other structures that are part of our everyday life. Gypsum also is used extensively as a soil conditioner on large tracts of land in suburban areas, as well as in agricultural regions.”
The BLM American Gypsum Company project decision record and other documents can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xpJaU.