Cemex protest

A young boy finishes dumping one of the last bags of Cemex/Marina sand that activists brought to the protest. In the background, a new dredge boat Cemex recently brought in is perched on the dune shelf, and not currently in operation. 

About 50 activists gathered at the end of Dunes Drive in Marina this morning, and after short speeches by some of the event's organizers, trundled out to beach and headed north toward the lagoon of the Cemex sand mine. 

The event was a protest against the sand mine, and was organized by Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Save Our Shores and the Monterey chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. 

Activists carried signs with slogan reading "Take a stand, save our sand" and "Cease and desist," and some even teamed up to lug a few 50-pound bags of Cemex sand—that, based on their labels, came from the mine in Marina—to dump back onto the beach at the lagoon. 

The mine, which has been identified by Ed Thornton, retired coastal engineer with the Naval Postgraduate School, as being the sole reason southern Monterey Bay has the highest coastal erosion in the state. 

Thornton was in attendance at the protest, as were filmmakers, a TV crew from the Bay Area and a Los Angeles-based journalist named Vince Beiser, who is writing a book about sand mining and the global sand trade, and who has written on the subject for Wired and the New York Times

The first draft of his book has already been written, but he says he hopes to work the Cemex mine in Marina into his second draft. 

Once the group reached the lagoon—which was flanked by a rope fence that was installed, the activists say, in just the last few days—a chant broke out: 

"Pump your fists, cease and desist!"

Few could resist smiling as they continued chanting, as they knew no one else could hear them on a beach that was otherwise deserted. 

Then, ceremoniously, they dumped out the bags of the bags of sand they had carried and returned the sand from whence it came. 

The protest was organized to keep the mine—which the California Coastal Commission threatened to shut down last March after investigating the operation for more than five years—at the top-of-mind for both that agency and for locals.

Following the protest, Kiet Do—a reporter from KPIX, the San Francisco affiliate for CBS—emailed Monterey Surfrider Foundation Chair Kevin Miller, asking to set up an interview. Also in the email, Do included a statement from Cemex spokesman Walker Robinson that was emailed to Do today regarding the protest (Cemex has not responded to the Weekly's requests for comment for more than a year, and the Weekly did not reach out to the company for this story).    

In full, the statement reads: 

"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 [the Marina mine], 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."

To that statement, Miller says, "It’s clear they’re trying to attack the messenger," adding that the impacts of the operation extend far beyond the "onsite biodiversity programs" of which Robinson writes.

And as for the "speculative" data Surfrider is relying upon, which they draw from a paper Thornton published in October, Miller says, "This is data from peer-reviewed journals, and if you think our data is wrong, show us your data. I don’t care if it's 275,000 cubic yards [of sand Cemex is mining annually at the site], 100,000 cubic yards or 1 cubic yard. Our stance is, 'It’s not yours.' They shouldn't be taking any sand to begin with."

Later in the day, in an email, Miller summed up his feelings about the company's statement by channeling muckracker Upton Sinclair:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

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