The first meeting of the mine relations committee in Jackson Township was held on Feb. 1 at the township hall, and focused primarily on creating avenues to deliver information to the public concerning the new industry in the township.
Under the operation of Arch Materials, the mine is expected to begin selling limestone sometime in the next two years, and has already began to sink a shaft into the bedrock of Jackson Township.
The committee was formed as part of an agreement by the township with Arch Materials as a condition to beginning operations of the mine.
“In the agreement, we said that a committee would be defined and organized,” said Jackson Township Trustee Joe Speeg. “The organizational structure is to have two people representing Arch Materials, one person from the board of zoning appeals, two township residents and a township representative.”
"I've been involved in a couple of these committees and none of them are the same," said Rechter. "They're all based around the common goal of addressing concerns from the community in one way or another. Sometimes, we'll have concerns. One thing is this is a different application for not only Jackson Township, but the state of Ohio. There are not many underground mines, maybe only one, in Ohio. It's not a deep mine, and sometimes they just dig into the side of a hill. This mine will be going down. We'll be about 800 feet underground. We need to make sure the local emergency crews train for certain things. There are some state-wide teams that deal with accidents in the mine, but there are everyday things that we want to work with the fire department for. If they need special equipment or training, I'll pay for it."
Rechter said that Arch Materials hopes to be an asset to the community and hopes that the committee will help bridge the divide between the mine and the public.
"We want to be an asset to the community, and we want to hear all of the community's concerns," said Rechter. "There will be times when the community has a problem with the way we're doing stuff, and we may not come to terms on it. But, we'll know what it is and we can address it."
The organizational meeting mainly consisted of discussions on how to be an effective body in the role of addressing concerns from the public. George Brown suggested creating a website with contact information and a thorough frequently asked question section. Speeg also requested information to provide so that answers coming from the committee would be grounded in fact, not supposition. Rechter agreed, saying that it was in the mine's best interests to be open and friendly with neighbors.
"I don't just want to hear from Jackson Township residents, I want to hear from everybody," said Rechter. "We've had complaints that we were tracking mud out, but it ended up being from farmers leaving their fields. I'm not saying we won't track mud out, but we'll try not to. We do have a trailer out there, and once we get power set up, we'll move that stuff from up front back. One of the first times we blasted, we had some calls. If there is cloud cover, that sound goes up and is reflected back. We did blast, but we've changed methods. We'll be using a machine to go down. We won't be doing any more drilling and blasting until we get to the bottom, where nobody will hear it - unless we run into something we're not expecting."
According to Rechter, the mine is expected to operate for approximately 50-70 years and will be almost entirely underground. A shaft has currently been created going between 70 and 100 feet straight down. That shaft will serve as an entrance point. Once it is completed, a machine will begin boring two identical slopes a mile long each that will complete the entrance into the targeted area for mining, which will be about 800 feet below the surface.
"There will be two slopes, shafts usually go straight down, these will be at an angle of about 17.5 percent," said Rechter. "There are two, 75 feet apart, a mile long each one."
The two slopes will be created simultaneously by a machine that will bore around 20 feet in one, then back out and do the same in the other. Every 300 feet, a connector tunnel will be created between the two slopes, which will angle down at a 17.5 percent or 10 degree slope. The slopes will be reinforced with concrete and eight foot bolts in the ceiling and the slopes will wind around the property to make an access to the target mining area.
"This could be under my house and it wouldn't bother me at all," said Rechter. "The landowner there, SAR, plans to put an industrial park on top of this. We looked at a property in Kansas City where they did the same thing. Only there, there was only 250 feet between the surface and where they were mining. We'll have over 800, so we feel very comfortable that he can develop that property."
Currently, the project is waiting on electricity to be installed, at which time the visible features, such as the construction equipment and office trailer will be moved farther back onto the property. Dudzik, project manager, said that what interaction he's seen from the public has been good so far.
"All that I have interacted with the local community has been a number of younger members come in anxious to know when we're hiring," said Dudzik. "I was recently invited by the Rotary to give a presentation to them about what we're doing and where we're going."