Watson residents grill Southern Aggregates over mining plans _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HEIDI KINCHEN -- Arif Qureshi, a practicing physician from Watson, voices concerns about the health impacts of a proposed gravel pit that could be located next to his Oak Hills neighborhood. Southern Aggregates has applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality for the pit.

A Houston company has acquired the parent company of Southern Aggregates, whose proposed gravel pit near homes in Watson has angered residents.

Southern Aggregates is one of the VantaCore Partners LP properties that Houston-based Natural Resource Partners LP will acquire in deal for $205 million. Philadelphia-based VantaCore specializes in construction materials, with three rock quarries, six sand-and-gravel plants, two asphalt plants, and a marine terminal.

Natural Resource Partners has major holdings in coal, aggregates -- the sand, crushed stone and gravel used in residential and commercial projects -- and oil and gas.

Southern Aggregates supplies the sand and gravel used in foundations, road pavement and bridges, mainly to customers in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.

VantaCore’s website says Southern Aggregates has “extensive reserves,” reserves that will last 27 years at the current production rates.

Residents of Watson would like those reserves to be replenished a little farther from their homes.

Southern Aggregates has proposed mining sand and gravel at one site that lies just 200 feet away from the Oak Hills subdivision. The residents have gathered around 400 signatures to protest the project and are asking the state Legislature and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to intervene.

Southern Aggregates officials have said the company planned the gravel pit at that location because that’s where the gravel is available.