Survey Denial Cheers Foes of Open-Pit Mine

Times Staff Writer

The federal Bureau of Land Management has refused to conduct a survey to determine whether a private Los Angeles firm can legally operate an open-pit mine in ritzy Sand Canyon, bureau officials said Thursday.

Homeowners who oppose the proposed Black Diamond Mine said the bureau's decision could signal the end of their 5-year battle against Eureka Consolidated Development, which hopes to mine iron silicate ore at the site.

"I resist the temptation to sit back and gloat," said Mike Levison, head of Minebusters, a homeowners group. But Levison said the company's latest setback gives the homeowners a "feeling of relief."

Eureka Consolidated asked the bureau to conduct a comprehensive survey of the proposed mine site last month because earlier surveys by the U.S. Forest Service failed to establish whether the site is within a portion of Angeles National Forest where mining is allowed.

The company was referred to the bureau by the Forest Service, which said it could not afford to spend $200,000 on the survey.

But on Thursday, Ed Hastey, state director of the BLM in Sacramento, said his agency could not afford such a survey either.

"We just don't go out and survey on Forest Service land because some company asks us to," Hastey said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's in the Forest Service's court."

The Forest Service still refuses to fund the survey, said Richard Borden, a special projects coordinator for the agency. Eureka Consolidated could offer to pay for the survey itself, but federal surveyors would perform the work, he said. Borden added that there is no guarantee that a survey would confirm the company's claim.

Officials from Eureka Consolidated could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The proposed Black Diamond Mine is about four miles south and a quarter of a mile east of the Antelope Valley Freeway. Minebusters says that giant rock crushers used to grind ore would destroy the peaceful atmosphere of Sand Canyon, known for Arabian horse ranches and Tudor-style estates.

Minebusters also complained that trucks carrying ore to the Antelope Valley Freeway would overload Sand Canyon Road and lower property values.

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