A map showing where Robertson's Ready Mix already has vested mining rights and where the company is seeking them.
A map showing where Robertson's Ready Mix already has vested mining rights and where the company is seeking them. (Source: Riverside County)

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors earlier this month found that Robertson’s Ready Mix does in fact have vested mining rights for approximately 792 acres of land near the city of Corona in a 3-1 vote with Board Chair Chuck Washington abstaining and Supervisor Kevin Jeffries voting against.

“I had thought that all my notes and records may not have to come back on this, but here we are, and I have a different conclusion,” Jeffries said at the Feb. 6 meeting. “I had a different conclusion months ago and have had to revisit all my notes and all the data.”

Jeffries said that he did not find that Robertson’s Ready Mix had vested rights on the northwest side of Cajalco Road, but that they did have vested rights on the southeast side of the road, based on what he said were the “actual demonstration of historical uses both pre ‘49 and after ‘49.”

“So I have a different conclusion on this in reviewing the evidence that was presented by both county staff and the applicants,” he said following the motion by Supervisor Karen Spiegel to determine that the company does have vested rights for the entirety of the property. “So I am unable to support the motion today, but respect the right of my colleague who represents that area to be the lead on this, but it’s kind of where I’m at.”

The question of whether Robertson’s Ready Mix had a vested right to mine the entirety of the approximately 792 acres it owns just east of the city of Corona first came to the board last May. 

During that meeting, the board heard more than three hours of presentations and public testimony regarding the issue, but ultimately decided to postpone making a decision until an agreement could be worked out between Robertson’s Ready Mix and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which had concerns about the potential for the destruction of cultural artifacts if the company was granted vested rights.

Ahead of the board’s decision, tribal chairman Mark Macarro announced that the tribe and the company were able to come to an agreement that took into account the importance of mining aggregate for the county’s infrastructure and economic development as well as the tribe’s goals of preserving the landscape and cultural knowledge for future generations.

“We have entered into a voluntary, thoughtful, measured and comprehensive agreement with Robertson’s Ready Mix that will provide conservation and protective processes for tribal cultural resources within the site,” he said. “This agreement will allow Pechanga to change our position from opposed to neutral on Robertson’s request.”

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However, Macarro was clear to point out that the tribe’s willingness to enter into an agreement with Robertson’s Ready Mix was an exception made for a very unique circumstance and was not intended to create a new norm.

“Robertson’s [Ready Mix] recognized the challenges, took the time to understand the tribe’s broader policy goal of cultural resources protection and conservation, and this led us to this collaborative agreement,” he said. “So we want to thank the board of supervisors for the additional time necessary to work through these very complicated issues, and we hope such a unique circumstance is the exception and not the norm.”

Kerry Shapiro, attorney for Robertson’s Ready Mix, said the agreement was made possible due to a considerable effort — “heroically so in the last month” — between the company and the tribe. 

“Having mutually resolved this issue and recognizing that the hearing is closed, I’m really here today just to ask that this board make a decision today to confirm the full scope of the vested right for the Hubbs-Harlow vested right area as reflected in our request for vested rights determination,” he said.

And though it was city staff’s recommendation that the board tentatively determine that Robertson’s Ready Mix had no vested mining right on the roughly 658 acres of land that was not included in the original vesting, the board ultimately voted to go against the recommendation.

“This has been a really challenging and learning experience, and I appreciate that the two entities took the time to work it out,” Spiegel said before making a motion to determine that Robertson’s Ready Mix had vested mining rights for the entire roughly 800 acres. “Just so everybody knows, they worked it out without any of the government being involved, which is probably the best thing that can happen. So I’m very pleased, and I appreciate the efforts.”

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the county’s website.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.