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Front Page » Top Stories » County Official Lets Mine Our Rocks Ourselves

County Official Lets Mine Our Rocks Ourselves

www.miamitodaynews.com
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Written by on February 1, 2007

By Dan Dolan
Instead of leasing a mineral-rich decommissioned airfield to private mining companies, the county should run its own rock quarry at Opa-locka West Airport and pocket at least $300 million in profit, a key Miami-Dade official said last week.

After months of study by his staff, Miguel Southwell, director of business development for the county’s aviation department, said revenue from a county-owned mine would be10 times more than royalties collected from a privately run operation.

The hefty profits could be used to help cover $1 billion in construction cost overruns at Miami International Airport, he said.

Under his proposal, the aviation department would hire a company to dig rock for a fixed fee. The county would sell the material to road builders and concrete companies and keep the profits.

"Over the 20-year life of a county-run mine, our net revenue would be $300 million to $600 million, based on today’s prices," Mr. Southwell said. "If we let someone else mine and market the rock, our royalty revenues would be $30 million to $60 million over the same period. That’s why we’re advocating a county-run operation."

Mr. Southwell acknowledged the aviation department doesn’t have mining expertise. He said the county would use experienced Florida Department of Transportation quarry engineers to help get environmental permits, hire contractors and sell rock. Meetings with state officials are scheduled for next week.

Mining operations are at least two years away, he said. Mayor Carlos Alvarez and the county commission must approve the proposal. Mr. Alvarez said last week that he would discuss the plan with County Manager George Burgess.

Commissioner Sally Heyman has criticized plans to mine the airport land. But commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz and Carlos Gimenez support some form of mining.

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