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Boy Scouts from Troop 703 gather around heavy equipment at the Vulcan Materials Baca Pit while working on their Mining in Society merit badges. From left are Mikah Villa, Alex Cleff, Francis Sherman, Max Macy, Patrick Wang, Emmuel Shepard, Michael Wang (in front), Jarod Hasbrouck and Scoutmaster Frank Sherman.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Scouts find gravel mining is more than heavy equipment

~Bill Diven

Nearly 150 Boy Scouts got a first-hand look at modern mining recently while working on one of Scouting's newest merit badges.

The Scouts from the Albuquerque area and Sandoval County descended on the Vulcan Materials Baca Pit near Algodones with groups rotating among educational stations and bus tours of the gravel processing operation. The stations, led by Vulcan employees, covered environmental and sustainability issues, recycling and mineral identification, and health and safety, with an emphasis on staying away from abandoned mines.

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources estimated there are tens of thousands of abandoned and inactive mines in the state.

"I had no idea there were that many mines in New Mexico or what kinds of mines we have," said Jarod Hasbrouck, 17, of Troop 703 in Corrales. "I also learned how raw materials become things that we use every day."

Hasbrouck, a Life scout, said he is four merit badges and a public service project short of becoming an Eagle Scout.

The Boy Scouts of America introduced the mining merit badge in 2014, developing it in conjunction with the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. The badge teaches Scouts about the source of materials used in everything from Dutch ovens to smart phones, while explaining how scientific, engineering, and technical jobs support the industry, the chief Scout executive said at the time.

The badge requirements include alternatives to visiting an active mine, such as going on online virtual tours and or visiting a mining museum.

Scoutmaster Frank Sherman said Troop 703, sponsored by the Rio Rancho Rotary Club, had not worked on the mining merit badge before. "What a great way to introduce the young men to the geology of New Mexico," he said.

While Alabama-based Vulcan has worked with Scouting nationwide for the than a dozen years, the Algodones gathering was a test run for the program in New Mexico, Barbara Goodrich-Welk, the company's manager for projects and external affairs, told the Signpost during the August 12 event. The company's former CEO was an Eagle Scout, she added.

Vulcan couldn't accommodate all the Scouts who applied this year and likely will add more educational stations next year, she said.

The company is, of course, promoting the value of mining, but it also promotes the role of higher education in the industry. Vulcan employees working with the Scouts that day said they enjoyed the contact with curious and well-mannered young adults.

"We like to team with organizations in our communities," Goodrich-Welk said. "For Vulcan as a company, part of our culture is giving back."

With more than 7,500 employees, Vulcan is considered the largest producer of construction aggregates in the country. It made its move into Sandoval County in 2014 by purchasing Lafarge North America and now operates three quarries off the Interstate 25 frontage road on leased land in Placitas, Santa Ana Pueblo, and Algodones.

The Placitas Pit has been the subject of a zoning lawsuit filed against Lafarge and pressed by residents of neighboring subdivisions. In a pending settlement awaiting court approval, Vulcan has agreed to close the mine and reclaim the land, although it has nearly ten years to do so

 
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