Quarry plans, info uncertain for Robbins residents
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org August 24, 2014 5:50PM
About 200 people filled an elementary school cafeteria in Robbins Thursday evening to hear from Cook County Sheriff's Department officials, who urged residents to stay alert in fighting a controversial project to create a limestone quarry and mine in the village. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 25, 2014 2:09AM
Two months after Robbins trustees essentially voided a contract with a developer planning a controversial limestone quarry and mine in the village, residents say they’re uncertain where those plans now stand.
A trustee said no new talks have been held with ALM Resources since the village board’s vote in late June. That vote came months after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart questioned whether the project, approved more than a year ago under a prior village administration, was in the best interest of residents.
Dart’s office also has been attempting to clarify the status of the quarry/mine project. Letters from his office in June and July sought a meeting with Robbins officials to discuss the project, but it was not clear whether Dart’s office has received a reply. A representative for the sheriff was not available for comment.
Trustee Lenny Johnson said last week that village officials are “waiting to see” what ALM plans to do.
After the June vote, an ALM representative said the company was willing to talk with village officials to address concerns but believed that it had a binding contract with Robbins. An ALM representative could not be reached for comment on its current position.
The SouthtownStar, in a series of stories that began last summer, first detailed the extent of ALM’s plans. Along with a 60-acre quarry, the company planned a 169-acre mine that would extract limestone from under dozens of houses.
More than 50 houses would need to be bought and razed for the project, which was touted as being a way of bringing much-needed revenue to the impoverished community. ALM presumably also would try to acquire mineral rights from other property owners to mine the limestone beneath their homes.
David Dyson, chairman of United Citizens of Robbins, said it’s frustrating for residents who want to know where the quarry/mine project stands. The group was formed after plans for the quarry and mine were unveiled more than a year ago.
“We try to keep our eyes and ears open,” Dyson said, adding that it’s difficult to believe that some effort to advance the project isn’t taking place.
“We hear there are a lot of strange faces in the neighborhoods taking pictures of homes” and other buildings, he said, but he can’t say for certain whether that activity is connected to the proposed project.
The group has been holding public meetings, offering information related to what ALM Resources has proposed. At a meeting last week at Kellar School, more than 60 residents heard presentations from Donald Mikulic, a geologist with the Illinois State Geological Survey based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Subhashchandra Bhagwat, a retired economist with the geological survey.
Mikulic said Robbins is an attractive site for quarry operators because limestone deposits are fairly close to the surface, and the proximity of the Calumet Sag Channel would lower the cost of shipping the crushed rock, which is a vital element in construction.
“We’re still in the stone age. We need this material,” he said.
It’s a cheap commodity — Bhagwat said a ton of crushed limestone is selling for about $9 — but expensive to transport if it has to be moved by rail or truck, Mikulic said.
Neither he nor Bhagwat is affiliated with the proposed project, and thus generally were unable to answer many of the residents’ questions, which dealt with issues such as how blasting might affect nearby homes, whether dust from quarry operations would adversely impact residents’ health and if underground mining could damage houses.
Mikulic said he didn’t know what the project’s overall impact would be on residents.
“I’m just a geologist,” he said, adding he’s neither endorsing nor discounting the proposed quarry and mine. “I don’t have any bias one way or another.”