At 8436 East Apache Trail, in the middle of a neighborhood, is a row of hills known as Twin Knolls.
The eastern hills are about to be completely destroyed by a gravel mine.
This mine will begin operation in the
next few months and will take
8 to 12 years to grind the hills
down to nothing.
The property owner has refused to
talk to anyone about his plans.
Southbound on 85th Street now
Southbound on 85th Street after mining
The Arizona mining industry has lobbied for extremely pro-mining laws in our State Legislature.
The State Legislature has passed these laws without any safeguards to stop anyone from mining
in the middle of a neighborhood in the suburbs of Phoenix.
Thanks to these laws, every government entity we have talked to says their hands are tied.
The Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD) will decide soon if they will grant an air quality
permit for this mine. The last public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 26, 2021
The last line in the hearing notice PDF says "Arbitrary denial of a permit is not supported by law."
Here are the concerns we have presented to MCAQD.
1. Evidence that the hill is granitic rock with a very high quartz/silica content.
The health effects of fine quartz dust are serious and have only been studied in a workplace environment,
never a neighborhood exposed for 10 years to a mine only 80 feet from, and over 130 feet above, our homes.
2. Proof that winds on this hilltop mine will be stronger and more turbulent than winds at ground level.
MCAQD dust monitoring methods limit the opacity of the dust to 7% or 20%.
Deadly quartz dust is too fine to be seen so these opacity limits are ineffective.
3. Valley Fever fungi spores will continuously be in the dust from this mine.
These spores are in the ground only at the surface but since they are mining a hill, not digging a pit,
this mine will always be breaking new surface material and releasing Valley Fever spores.
These spores are too small to see so opacity limits are ineffective.
Here are some of the problems with MCAQD's existing dust control regulations.
1. They don't consider what's in the dust.
2. Their limits only apply to visible dust when the most dangerous dust can't be seen.
3. Their regulations are the same for this mine on a windy hill as they are for a surface or below ground mine.
These are real problems and concerns. Denying this permit is not arbitrary.
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Time line of what has transpired to date:
April 19, 2019 - Twin Knolls property owner John Oertle submitted a Mining Exemption Application to
the Maricopa County Planning and Development Department to allow for aggregate mining on the property.
May 2, 2019 - Ray Banker, Planner in the Maricopa County Planning and Development
Department, created a plan summary. The summary provided an aerial view of the subject property
clearly showing a heavily populated residential area surrounding the property.
There are also numerous businesses to the south of, and adjacent to, the Twin Knolls property.
December 2019 - The Final Reclamation Plan was submitted to the Mining Office.
According to this plan, mining operations are scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2020.
The week of February 10, 2020 - Some residents received a letter from the Arizona State
Mine Inspector’s Office dated February 5, 2020 advising of a meeting on March 11, 2020.
This letter was the first notification residents received about our new neighbor, the mine.
The March 11 meeting was to be about the reclamation plan only. The mine was already approved.
March 11, 2020 - Reclamation Plan meeting at the Arizona State Mine Inspector’s Office.
We attempted to table the meeting due to failure to properly notify homeowners as required by law.
The Assistant Attorney General, who headed the meeting, refused to table the discussion.
We were told only comments about the reclamation plan would be allowed at this meeting
but the plan was not available to anyone prior to the meeting and only 2 copies of the plan
were available at the meeting. There were around 40 people attending.
Custom Landscaping Materials stated they had done a study of the flora and fauna on the Knolls
and they said they found nothing.
We asked when mining was scheduled to begin. The answer was "we don't know".
AZ State Legislator John Fillmore attended and was very vocal in opposition of the mine.
Here is the March 11 meeting audio. You may have to download in order to play it.
March 14, 2020 - An article about the mine appeared in the Arizona Republic.
AZ Republic reporter Alison Steinbach interviewed Sam Schippers, vice president of
Custom Landscape Materials(CLM), the company leasing the land to do aggregate mining.
Schippers said a third party has done “thorough studies on the wildlife”.
“The only thing we’ve found of any concern was a significant population of rattlesnakes,” he added.
March 16, 2020 - We received the December 2019 Reclamation Plan Final.
This is when we learned mining operations were scheduled to begin in Spring of 2020.
March 29, 2020 - About 30 folks came out to protest the destruction of Twin Knolls.
Helen Hunter, who is running for LD16 House of Representatives, also showed up to help us protest.
Thank you to everyone who showed up to raise awareness of this scandal.
April 13, 2020 - Cathy had a call with Steve Chucri, County Supervisor.
They discussed the elusive Flora and Fauna study and Supervisor Chucri's office will try to
secure that from whomever may have it.
Supervisor Chucri has reached out to Oertle and to CLM and both have been none responsive.
A conference call was scheduled with the landscape company and they were a no show.
May 14, 2020 - We found that the Flora and Fauna study that Custom Landscape said was done
does not exist at any government entity.
Sam Schippers claimed the Mining Inspector's Office had it which they did not.
Neither did other government entities we checked with.
June 20, 2020 - Representative Fillmore addressed a neighborhood meeting
and recommended we continue to write and call, specifically City of Mesa, Maricopa
Board of Supervisors, all our District and State Legislators AND he also suggested the Governor.
He suggested writing YOUR story and how this situation would negatively impact YOU.
August 13, 2020 - Air quality permitting requirements are inadequate for this mine.
On August 13 we provided the MCAQD with scientific studies demonstrating why this is true.
As of December 10,2020, they have not responded with studies of their own contradicting these facts.
September 18, 2020 - On Sep 4 the Mine Inspector's Office and the Attorney General's Office
were served with a Notice of Claim.
A Notice of Claim is required in Arizona to notify any state agency that we intend to sue them.
The issue is their failure to follow the legal notification process regarding the Reclamation Plan.
We are asking that they reset the entire approval process of the plan so the Mine Inspector's Office
can do proper notification in accordance with the law.