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Building spares mining sales from the pits

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

The recent residential construction boom is keeping Hernando County's mining industry steady.

Sales for most of the hard rock and cement plants remained flat in 2002 and not much different from 2001, mining managers said. The sour economy could have wreaked havoc with sales, they said, if it weren't for the strong residential construction market.

"We're not in a boom time, but it's relatively steady," said Vulcan Materials plant manager Alan Stotz, who is president of the county mining association. "Everyone's holding their own."

In 2002, Hernando's market reflected the lackluster performance of the national mining industry, said Kelly Snyder, spokeswoman for the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association in Arlington, Va.

The county's mines did not fare as well as the statewide mining industry, which benefitted from $2.2-billion in federal and state highway contracts, said Jack Banning, president of the Florida Limerock and Aggregate Institute.

Much of the recent highway construction was outside west-central Florida, so sales could improve as highway work picks up in the Tampa Bay area, Stotz said.

Overall, Vulcan Materials, which mines limestone aggregate for construction materials, had flat sales, Stotz said. Though Vulcan saw lower federal and state highway contract sales, the strong housing markets in Pasco and Hernando buoyed sales and warded off a drop, Stotz said.

Sales were off slightly at E.R. Jahna Industries Inc., which also mines limestone aggregate at its Ridge Manor plant. Plant manager Hoyt Thompson said a wetter summer than normal affected construction schedules and the amount of aggregate mined.

Florida Crushed Stone's limerock mine also had flat sales, plant manager Mark Lacke said. Construction of commercial warehouses and buildings was down, but residential housing buoyed sales.

Florida Rock Industries' limerock aggregate mine closed in September and is now entrenched in the process of land reclamation. The company's limestone grinding facility had stable sales, said Cary Cohrs, vice president of cement operations.

The company had planned to build a $100-million cement plant north of Brooksville, but given the dampened economy, those plans are on hold, said Tom Baker, a vice president of Jacksonville-based Florida Rock.

Plant managers at both Florida Crushed Stone and Cemex reported that their cement operations were stable in 2002.

Florida Crushed Stone is predicting a slight decline in cement operations this year.

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