The Buellflat Rock Co. seeks to undertake deep mining in the section known as Area A.
The Buellflat Rock Co. seeks to undertake deep mining in the section known as Area A. (Contributed map)

Seven weeks after delaying action, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission unanimously gave conceptual approval for a proposal to conduct deep mining at a rock quarry near Solvang.

On Wednesday, the commissioners voted in favor of the Buellflat Rock Company Deep Mining Reclamation proposal, which would extend the life of the mine by 20 years — to 2038. Buellflat is located at 1214 Mission Drive outside the Solvang city limits.

Under the proposal, deep mining would be conducted in one phase and could produce up to 518,149 cubic yards of material over the life of the mine.

Deep mining would occur in a previously mined section, known as Area A, going 30 feet deeper than the current grade, with the mining pit’s maximum depth being 60 feet.

Mining for sand, rock and gravel has occurred at the site since the 1930s.

Third District Commissioner John Parke noted Buellflat’s lengthy operations at the site.

“There is a vested right here and it predates even my birth,” Parke said, adding that he favored approving the proposal “because that’s what we need to do.”

“My comments are supportive of the project primarily because the applicant has listened to the commission’s comments a month or so ago and has modified the project in some meaningful ways,” chairman C. Michael Cooney said.

In June, commissioners raised concerns about truck traffic, noise and dust, leading to a decision to delay the item.

In the past month, the applicant voluntarily agreed to reduce the maximum daily truck trips from 358 to 200, add signage with the contact information for complaints, and install an 8-foot berm on the western and northern boundaries to shield the pit from neighbors.

On Wednesday, Solvang resident Thomas Kiley, who lives near the site, renewed concerns about the dust and noise from the quarry, although Parke said he doubted that the dust came Buellflats since the mining had paused. Other firms also conduct mining operations in the area, Parke added. 

“That noise and dust is likely coming from other places,” he said.

Parke had raised the issue of whether additional landscaping should be included as a condition, but Fourth District Commissioner Larry Ferini said it could attract rodents, require water and pose a fire danger. Parke said he would drop the landscaping requirement.

Once the mining ends, the area would be reclaimed for agricultural uses to match uses nearby.

The commissioners’ conceptual approval of the plan will be sent to the California Division of Mine Reclamation for concurrence and return to Santa Barbara County for final action.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A stylized hawk's head on a red background

Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.