UTAH

Proposed limestone mine in Parleys Canyon getting tremendous pushback

Nov 29, 2021, 7:09 PM | Updated: 7:10 pm
(File Photo: A runner passing through Grandeur Peak.  KSL TV, 2018)...
(File Photo: A runner passing through Grandeur Peak. KSL TV, 2018)
(File Photo: A runner passing through Grandeur Peak. KSL TV, 2018)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – An idea to build a limestone quarry in Parleys Canyon is causing serious concern among conservationists and elected officials in Salt Lake County.  Some people believe the proposal could damage the area forever, if it goes through.

Tree Farm LLC filed a Notice of Intent to Commence Large Mining Operations in mid-November.  In their NOI, they specify they plan on taking mostly limestone from an area west of Mount Aire and north of Grandeur Peak. However, other precious metals may also be found.

Starting a limestone mine in Parleys Canyon

At first, crews would drill “blastholes” into the rock, then detonate explosives in those holes according to the NOI.  After that, the blasted material would be pushed down the slopes or taken to a jaw crusher where it would be crushed into dust.  Company officials estimate they would disturb 634 acres of land and take over 500,000 tons of rock every year for the first three to five years.  When operations are in full swing, crews would be able to mine more than two million tons every year.

The proposal says Tree Farm wouldn’t just leave a big hole in the ground when they’re done.  It includes plans to protect and re-deposit soils, and the topsoil would be separated from mineable material.  The company proposes to set aside over 330,000 yards of topsoil that can be reclaimed later.

The NOI states, “All stockpiled or bermed topsoil will be planted/seeded with native plants to prevent deterioration from wind or water erosion.”

KSL’s calls to Tree Farm were not returned.

Concerns over water and fire

Salt Lake City doesn’t have jurisdiction over this particular stretch of land. However, its Department of Public Utilities is still getting a lot of calls.

Department Director Laura Briefer said, “A lot of our constituents may be concerned about the visual impact and the impact on wildlife habitat.”

According to Briefer, Salt Lake City does have rights to some of the water in that watershed. And she has a lot of questions about what this quarry would do to their supply.  For instance, she wants to know exactly how much water would be used for regular mining procedures. And how much would be used to keep pollution out of the air.

“They would need to use water for dust control.  That also goes into my questions with respect to the environmental impacts and the use of water,” she said.

Briefer also believes any mining operation of that size has a negative impact on nearby groundwater.

She said, “With an area that large of ground disturbance, there is the potential that sediments that become more available or loosened could enter into waterways.”

Along with water, Briefer says fire is another of her concerns.

Pushback from Salt Lake County

“This type of operation could [increase] risk of wildfire, given the use of heavy equipment in the area,” she said.

Online petitions are making the rounds, calling on the government to shut down this proposal.  Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson issued a statement to the press saying she is “gravely concerned” about the proposal.

Her statement reads, “This is not in harmony with Salt Lake County’s vision to protect the unique qualities of our canyons and public health for generations to come. Instead, the development could potentially scar the natural contours of the landscape. And could irreversibly disturb the experiences of countless residents in these two canyons.”

Officials with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining say they received NOIs for both a small and a large mining operation.  They say there is usually no “public comment period” for small mine NOIs. However, they’re still accepting public comments through emails.  People can send their concerns to oilgasmining@utah.gov.

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Proposed limestone mine in Parleys Canyon getting tremendous pushback