By Kiet Do

MONTEREY (CBS SF) — Community members, along and advocacy groups, are keeping up the pressure to close the CEMEX corporation’s 111-year old Lapis Sand Mine on the Central Coast.

On the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, about 50 demonstrators from Save Our Shores and the Monterey chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, carried 50 pound sacks of sand across the shore, from Marina State Beach to the sand mine more than a mile away.

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The activists emptied the $4 bags, which read “Monterey Sand”, at the same dredging pond where CEMEX mines about 200,000 cubic yards of sand per year, according to Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz.

“It’s Lapis, Monterey Sand, going right back,” said one demonstrator.

The Surfrider Foundation now joins the effort to draw attention to a story that’s been going on for months.

In March 2016, the California Coastal Commission informed CEMEX the company did not have the proper permits to extract sand from the Monterey coast and that doing so was causing massive erosion.

The commission issued a letter, that has not yet been made public, warning they would issue a cease and desist order. That move by the commission 10 months ago sparked ongoing behind-the-scene negotiations that have frustrated opponents of the sand mine.

“For the CEMEX people, we hope it’s a demonstration that we’re not gonna let this sit,” said Katherine O’Dea, executive director of Save Our Shores. “We’re taking it to the end. Shut down is the only answer.”

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Edward Thornton, retired oceanography professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, estimates the amount of sand being mined is equivalent to a 14-yard dump truck being filled up by a loader and being driven away every 28 minutes for the last 65 years.

Thornton, a longtime observer of operations at the sand mine, says CEMEX ramped up mining operations when negotiations began with the Coastal Commission and that CEMEX has even brought in a new replacement dredger.

“It’s giving the finger to the Coastal Commission and the public,” Thornton said.

Walker Robinson, external communications manager at CEMEX issued the following statement to KPIX 5:

“CEMEX has heard the concerns raised by The Surfrider Foundation, and understands their commitment to conserving the Monterey Bay. CEMEX and Surfrider share many common values with respect to environmental responsibility. CEMEX is committed to operating in a sustainable and conscientious way and also takes great care to integrate biodiversity conservation into our operations.”

“CEMEX sponsors many onsite biodiversity programs throughout our sites in the United States, including Lapis, to protect and cultivate the unique ecosystems in which we live and work. We are disappointed that a respected organization such as Surfrider would suggest anything less of CEMEX, and are concerned that many of Surfrider’s points are based on, what we believe to be, erroneous and speculative data and unsound theory. We look forward to continuing our productive and factual discussions with the California Coastal Commission and hope to find a mutual resolution soon.”

Kevin Miller, chair of the Monterey chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, took issue with CEMEX’s claims of “erroneous and speculative data, saying the company has never publicly released how much sand it mines.

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“That sand doesn’t belong to them. That sand is a public good, it’s used to build beaches in southern Monterey Bay. and no one has a right to prevent that sand from replenishing our beaches and shoreline,” said Miller.