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Cemex seeks hundreds of acres to expand mining operation

BROOKSVILLE — Cemex Construction Materials Florida is seeking to add more than 573 acres to its mining operations in Hernando County, moving active mining south of Fort Dade Avenue to Cortez Boulevard.

On June 13, the company will seek a favorable ruling from the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission to change 730 acres on the county's future land use map from residential and commercial to mining and commercial overlay.

The map change is the first in a series of approvals necessary before any mining activity could begin, including an okay by the County Commission.

The now-vacant land, which includes nine parcels owned by entities affiliated with some of Hernando County's most prominent businessmen, is bordered on the north and west by Fort Dade Avenue and by Cortez on the south; the eastern border is just west of Cobb Road.

The application for the map change is one of the largest expansions for mining in recent years.

In mid 2009, nearly 600 acres already designated for mining in the comprehensive plan was rezoned for mining around the edges of the more than 10,000 acres of Cemex property in Hernando County.

Much of the land designated for the current change is owned by Tommy Bronson, and the arrangement would not be a sale, but rather a 20-year lease to Cemex, said Paul Wieczorek, senior planner for the county.

The remaining 157 acres would comprise a commercial overlay area running along the north side of Cortez Boulevard. If approved, that would, in essence, extend the existing designation for commercial use along the north side of Cortez farther to the east.

Bronson, Jim Kimbrough, Robert Buckner, Joe Mason and Zeneda Partners Limited Partnership are the other owners of the various parcels.

A commercial area near the northwest corner of Cobb Road and Cortez, on the west edge of Brooksville, has been on the land use map previously; Cemex is now seeking some of that area for mining and, in exchange, would shift the commercial use farther to the west, Wieczorek explained.

A commercial overlay allows flexibility in future development options, he said.

As for the mining proposal, the application from Cemex says the land use is consistent because of the company's adjacent mining operation north of Fort Dade Avenue and the fact that infrastructure for mining is already in place there.

With hard rock mostly exhausted from Cemex's existing south pit operation, the company notes in its application that the area between Fort Dade and Cortez contains one of the most viable deposits of sought-after Suwannee limestone.

"It is in the best interest of both the state and local economies to retain access to and utilize this limited natural resource,'' the application states.

Wieczorek noted that the plan does shift mining operations and blasting closer to Brooksville Regional Hospital, and he said there have been discussions about the company meeting with hospital representatives to discuss any related issues.

The Cemex operation, and mining in general, is a part of the historical foundation of Hernando County and remains a key industry, said Michael McHugh, the county's business development manager.

He said the company's move to expand makes sense.

"It's an attempt to extend the life of the mine and add additional hard rock reserves,'' said McHugh, who worked in the mining industry before he joined the county.

"You don't do these things for tomorrow or next month or even next year,'' he said. "These are long-term strategies.''

McHugh predicted that mining will be in Hernando County for years to come, and that the Cemex operations may be some of the last to be mining hard rock.

From an economic perspective, mining jobs pay well and have long provided opportunity for the area's residents. "There are generations of miners in this county,'' McHugh said.

"It is a part of our history. It has helped us balance with some of the other things going on here, such as the residential development,'' he said. "I don't see that changing anytime soon.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Cemex seeks hundreds of acres to expand mining operation 05/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 8:04pm]
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