Rocking out from Marble |

Rocking out from Marble

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

MARBLE, Colo. ” A local company’s plans to bring a mining operation to National Forest land outside of Marble won’t exactly be cutting-edge.

The operation won’t involve tunnels or an open pit ” or even bulldozers and drills ” according to U.S. Forest Service ranger Skye Sieber. In fact, the only mechanical equipment used will be a forklift and a truck.

“It just kind of exemplifies all the different kinds of activities and requests that come through,” she said.

For the most part, she explained, the proposed project will involve several Gallegos Corporation employees picking up rocks by hand.

“It sounds a little scary on paper,” explained Sieber. “It truly is just gathering rock ” [it’s] not your typical kind of mining project.”

Sieber said that Gallegos Corporation employees search out rocks of a certain shape and size, load them onto a pallet wrapped with wire and use a forklift to place the pallet onto a flatbed truck.

To keep the rock looking natural and unblemished, the company tries to handle it with mechanical equipment as little as possible. Gallegos Corporation takes such care with the rocks because the natural-looking rock is ultimately very valuable in the resort home market, said Gallegos Corporation spokesman Bill Balaz.

Gallegos Corporation, which has offices throughout the West, including Basalt and Vail, recently asked permission to remove rocks from a roughly 23-acre talus slope in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

The project site is near the Marble airstrip, and it adjoins a seven-acre section of private land from which Gallegos Corporation has been harvesting rock for the last 10 years. Access is via a private road off of Gunnison County Road 3, and no new permanent access roads are proposed.

The quartz monzonite porphyry near Marble looks like granite and is popular among homeowners in Vail and Aspen, according to Balaz. In fact, Gallegos Corporation has named the rock “Aspen granite” because of its popularity with Aspen homeowners.

Most often it is used for landscaping projects or to create interior or exterior rock walls, he said.

Gallegos Corporation employee Frank Guiterrez said that with the advent of green building, the rock has become increasingly popular among local homeowners interested in using local materials.

“Everyone wants to get rock within a 500-mile radius,” he said.

Nonetheless, the company doesn’t expect to remove the rock quickly. Because Gallegos Corporation adjusts harvesting to meet demand as closely as possible, it expects to be on site for only a few two-week sessions in the summer months.

And given that Gallegos Corporation spent 10 years collecting rock from a seven-acre parcel, operations on the 32 acres of Forest Service land are expected to last about 30 years.

No structures, diversions, settling ponds, chemicals, waste dumps or staging pads will be created, according to a Forest Service press release about the project. Surface disturbance will be limited to rock gathering, said the release.

However, Sieber noted that the company will have to create “harvesting roads” for the truck and forklift. But she noted that the “roads” it has “built” previously are largely paths in which the big rocks have been moved out of the way.

“Road is really a stretch,” she said.

The roads ” and the entire project site ” would be re-graded and re-vegetated as the mining is completed, said Sieber, who noted that the company reclaims each parcel of land as soon as it is done with it.

The Forest Service is currently asking for feedback from anyone with an interest or concern about the project. The initial comment period ends on October 17.

So far, said Sieber, she has received a few calls from people or organizations that have questions about the project, but she has not heard from anyone with concerns. None of the USFS specialists have expressed concern either, she said.

After the initial comment period, the Forest Service will conduct a National Environmental Policy Act study. A detailed environmental assessment should be completed by the end of 2008, after which there will be an additional 30-day comment period.

Sieber was not sure what fees the company would pay to remove the rock, and minerals coordinator Olivia Garcia was unavailable to answer the question.

Comments regarding the proposal ” or requests for a copy of the environmental assessment- ” should be addressed to Skye Sieber, 0094 County Road 244, Rifle, Colorado, 81650. They can also be faxed to 970-625-2532 or e-mailed to Persons commenting should include 1) name, address, telephone number, and organizations represented, if any; 2) title of this project (Conger Rock Harvest); and 3) specific facts and supporting reasons for officials to consider.

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