Crews begin Highway 302 work for sand mine

Road crews begin this week on a privately funded project to add acceleration and deceleration lanes for a sand mine on Highway 302 in Winkler County in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation.

The work is at the entrance of Black Mountain Sand’s Vest Mine, more than 7 miles from the Ector County line. Black Mountain expects to open the mine, which is capable of producing 4 million tons of sand per year, this month. The company plans to open another one in February.

The mines are two of 23 Permian Basin mining sites announced in the past year in response to a surge in demand for frac sand, according to the oil industry research firm Infill Thinking. The availability of local sand could lower the cost of bringing oil wells into production, but the mines bring with them concentrated local impacts such as heavy truck traffic.

TxDOT reported the lanes on Highway 302 were being added at Black Mountain for safety in anticipation of hundreds of additional trucks driving in the road everyday once the mine opens. It is one of more than a dozen projects the state agency is working on related to sand mines in the region.

“We are committed to establishing effective partnerships with companies who need improvements in access and transport operations at their facilities,” Odessa District Engineer John Speed said in a prepared statement. “It’s an indicator of deep commitment to the safety of their employees and their neighbors. The cost of these types of improvements can easily exceed seven figures, so it’s significant when a company is willing pay for them. These road changes will reduce the chances that accidents might occur around their facilities, so we’re thrilled to have this kind of partner in transportation safety.”

Black Mountain Sand is paying the $2 million costs of the road project directly to roadwork contractor FNF Construction of Tempe, Ariz.