(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) The Book Cliffs area south of Vernal is proposed for the nation's first commercial tar sands mine.
Utah board OKs the nation’s first commercial tar sands project
Opponents claim the mine would pollute groundwater in the Book Cliffs area of eastern Utah; proponents say it is risk-free.
By Judy Fahys
| The Salt Lake Tribune
A state panel gave a key approval Wednesday to start a tar sands mine in Utah’s wild Book Cliffs in eastern Utah.
After hearing from the company behind the project, Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands, as well as the group that appealed the initial project approval, Moab-based Living Rivers, board members voted 9-2 to uphold the state’s previous OK of the project, the nation’s first fuel producing tar-sands mine.
Raphael Cordray, a member of the group, vowed afterward to continue the fight. She said state surveys of the area show there are aquifers below the area that will be strip mined, and they should be protected.
"We knew this was going to happen," she said. "But we’re ashamed they made such an absurd ruling."Meanwhile, the company said it hopes to be mining aroundthis time next year. Barclay E. Cuthbert, vice president of operations for U.S. Oil Sands, said his company hopes to finalize its Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining permit in coming weeks.
That state permit application, originally submitted two years ago, also has been approved — and later appealed by Living Rivers. The mining board was waiting to see the water-quality board’s decision.