Closure of Last Coastal Sand Mine Nearing Conclusion


Proposed agreement would limit sand extraction from California beach before operations cease in three years, with the dune habitat sold for conservation

SACRAMENTO - Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom welcomed the California Coastal Commission's unanimous vote to approve a proposal that would shut down the last coastal sand mine in the United States. The terms of the agreement now head to the State Lands Commission, chaired by Lt. Governor Newsom, for final consideration.

"The Coastal Commission has taken an important step toward preserving Monterey County's beaches for public use and preventing their disappearance." said Lieutenant Governor Newsom, who helped guide the negotiations in partnership with the Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission, and the City of Marina. "The breadth of support for the proposal from the coastal community at Thursday's hearing offered a compelling statement of approval, and signaled broad agreement that we've delivered the most speedy and absolute outcome to close the final chapter on coastal sand mining in the United States."

The agreement requires mining operations to cease in three years, limits the volume of sand extracted in the interim, and requires preservation of the property's dune habitat. Beaches near the CEMEX Lapis mine in Marina, California, are threatened by an extremely high rate of erosion that scientists link to the mining operations. The terms will terminate mining activities and return the beach to the public sooner than a scenario of sustained and costly litigation with uncertain outcomes.

The Coastal Commission's unanimous approval moves this proposal to the State Lands Commission for consideration at its August 2017 meeting. Approval by the State Lands Commission would set the clock for CEMEX to cease mining at the Lapis plant by December 31, 2020. The agreement between the state agencies and the mining company stipulates that prior to the 2020 deadline, CEMEX cannot remove more than 240,000 tons of sand per year - less than the estimated current extraction rate of 300,000 tons per year. After the cessation of mining, the terms allow an additional three years for CEMEX to process and restore its inland operations consistent with the plant's Reclamation Plan. The 400-acre property would then be sold at less-than-market value to an entity committed to conserving the beach and dune habitat.

Mining operations at the Lapis plant rely on an artificial dredge pond that, according to recent research, is replenished by sand from public trust lands. In May 2017, the California State Lands Commission issued a notice ordering CEMEX to comply with state law or cease its operations at the Lapis plant. In an accompanying statement, Lieutenant Governor Newsom invited the company to "engage in a dialogue on the future of the operations." The resulting agreement ceases mining operations and preserves the beach for the public on a shortened timetable than was expected under a scenario of extended litigation with an uncertain outcome. This agreement is an environmental and economic victory for Southern Monterey Bay beaches, which have an inherent importance to the public and whose recreation value contributes an estimated $13 million per year to the local economy.