Controversial Parley’s Canyon mine proposal gets permit, but could become a legal battle

Aug 24, 2022, 6:34 PM | Updated: 6:36 pm

UTAH — A controversial proposed mining project in Parley’s Canyon has received the green light on a permit for blasting and hauling limestone near Intersate 80.

The proposal has drawn outcries and outrage from neighbors and citizens, becoming a sore subject for residents living in the nearby Mount Aire neighborhood. A petition to stop the quarry garnered more than 26,000 signatures online.

Many were awaiting a decision from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (OGM) on whether or not to issue a small mine operation permit to Granite Construction on behalf of Tree Farm, LLC for the 20-acre project. On Monday, the permit application was approved by OGM Director John Baza, with a list of requirements.

The decision came after OGM held a hearing, received hundreds of public comments, and sifted through five formal objections.

“He and his counsel thought long and hard on this, and they worked hard to get a good decision that tried to take into account the concerns of the public but still not overreach our jurisdiction,” explained Dana Dean, deputy director over mining for OGM.

The proposed blasting, crushing, dozing and hauling of limestone in the potential future quarry would sit along I-80 and adjacent to Mount Aire, as well as near recreation in Parley’s and Millcreek Canyons, with access via I-80.

Those against it have raised concerns that range from water and air quality issues to wildlife and recreation impacts.

Many have worried the project would kick up dust, contaminate water, and lead to increased heavy equipment and truck travel in the area and in Parley’s Canyon.

Proposed mine in Parleys Canyon draws concern for homeowners, environment

In the application, Granite Construction promised to mitigate impacts on the environment. The company said it would coordinate with Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Department of Transportation before blasting activities and would comply with all applicable Utah Department of Environmental Quality rules and regulations.

The applicants explained that water would be used for fugitive dust control, with a Storm Water Pollution Plan, and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure plans.

The permit application met all rules and statutes, Dean indicated, leading to the approval.

But having that permit in hand is just the start.

“The order requires them to comply with all other local, state, federal laws and ordinances,” Dean said. “It does not allow them to just take our permit and move forward.”

First, she explained, OGM could see an appeal to Director Baza’s decision within the next 10 days. That path could lead to the Utah Supreme Court, Dean indicated.

Should that not happen, and Granite moves forward, Baza is requiring the construction company to obtain all permits and approvals from all local, state, and federal authorities.

“They still need to get permits through the Department of Environmental Quality. They’ll need an air quality permit, and they may need water quality permits,” Dean explained.

Then, there’s the fact that Salt Lake County banned projects like this one in the canyon several months ago.

“That will probably be a legal battle that they will have to wage long before they can begin mining,” Dean said.

SL County Council votes unanimously to ban mining in area canyons, including Parleys

Other requirements Baza outlined include;

  • using best practices to install fencing or securing the mine site,
  • minimizing heavy industrial equipment traffic during high recreational or residential commuting periods,
  • performing all blasting and major excavation during daylight hours,
  • utilizing best practices when blasting,
  • complying with fire restrictions,
  • and complying with statutes regarding zoning, safety, air and water pollution, sanitation and waste management, and public liability and property damage.

“They’ve got the first piece of the puzzle,” Dean said. “But there’s a lot more pieces to be put together before they could begin moving any dirt or working out there.”

The proposed Parleys Mine (Courtesy: Granite Construction)

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Controversial Parley’s Canyon mine proposal gets permit, but could become a legal battle