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Abandoned Kaiser Steel Mine May Become a Waste Dump Site

October 03, 1987|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | Times Staff Writer

Troubled Kaiser Steel plans to study the possibility of turning its abandoned Eagle Mountain iron ore mine in Riverside County into a regional non-hazardous solid waste dump, The Times has learned.

The Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company, which used to maintain its headquarters in Fontana, intends to formally announce Monday that it will undertake a feasibility study with another company, a Kaiser Steel spokeswoman confirmed Friday. She declined to name the other company involved.

In addition to looking at whether the Eagle Mountain site would be suitable for the management and disposal of non-hazardous waste, the study would also examine the possible use of existing rail lines to deliver waste to Eagle Mountain, the Kaiser Steel spokeswoman said.

"This is not anything to do with hazardous waste," she said.

The disposal of trash has become an increasing problem in Southern California as many landfills near capacity. The impending shortage has led cities to explore recycling programs and new landfill sites, among other things.

Glendale officials, for example, Tuesday proposed a ban on the dumping of trash from Los Angeles at Scholl Canyon Landfill. The move is designed to lengthen the life of Glendale's only dump, which will be full by the year 2001 at the present rate of use.

Renowned industrialist Henry J. Kaiser bought the Eagle Mountain mine in 1944 to supply the steel mill he built in Fontana to help with the war effort.

The mine, located in the low desert halfway between Indio and Blythe, was closed in late 1982 as Kaiser Steel bowed to the growing strength of foreign competition.

The 3,700 inhabitants of the small company mining town built and owned by Kaiser Steel were forced to moved on. The three schools, eight churches, shopping center, gas station, two bars and a bowling alley were all shuttered.

Kaiser Steel shipped its first iron ore from the mine in 1948 to the Fontana steel mill, which was closed in 1983 and sold the next year. At the end, Eagle Mountain was one of the country's 10 largest open-pit mining operations.

The proposed landfill at Eagle Mountain will not be Kaiser Steel's first interest in waste disposal. The company has a waste-treatment plant in Fontana, which it is trying to make the centerpiece of a proposed industrial park.

Kaiser Steel, which has been operating under bankruptcy-law protection since February, has put much of the company, including all of its steel and coal businesses, up for sale.

Kaiser Steel earlier this week announced an agreement to sell its Napa pipe mill, steel fabrication plant and other properties for $13 million to Gilmore Steel of Portland, Ore. A total of $7 million of the proceeds have been earmarked to fund medical benefits for retirees.

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