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Salt Lake County Council bans mining in Parleys Canyon, other areas

Posted at 5:51 PM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 00:01:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Council has voted unanimously to ban mining and any mineral extraction in the county's foothills and canyons.

Last fall, the company Tree Farm LLC proposed creating an open-pit limestone quarry in Parleys Canyon on the northeastern flank of Grandeur Peak, with the goal of extracting 2 million tons of crushed rock a year.

Now, that can't go.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has been pushing for this, and she said the county received more than 1,000 public comments ahead of Tuesday's vote.

“We are making a point today at Salt Lake County that we love our canyons want to preserve them,” said Wilson.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, all participants in public comment spoke against the proposed mine — listing air quality, water, wildlife, and visual concerns.

“What legacy are we going to leave to future generations to help us save our canyons?” said Alex Schmidt with Save Our Canyons.

Representatives of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), and the Department of Salt Lake City Public Utilities also spoke.

“The Salt Lake valley struggles with air quality and water source problems, and putting a mine in this location is against all of that,” said Andrew Smith with the Save Parleys organization.

An online petition against the proposed mining operation has over 24,000 signatures.

Following Tuesday's vote, an attorney for Tree Farm LLC sent a letter to the council that said:

"I have made multiple efforts over the past several weeks to engage with Salt Lake County regarding the proposed ordinance to eliminate mineral extraction and processing as a conditional use in the Forestry and Recreation Zone. With the exception of some very summary and dismissive emails from County Attorney Zach Shaw, my efforts have largely been ignored. Noting that this matter is again on the County Council Agenda for today (April 5, 2022), I hereby submit this letter as my public comment for this meeting.

"This ordinance is blatantly contrary to Utah Code 17-41-402(6). This law prohibits adopting or initiating proceedings to adopt any ordinance that would prohibit Critical Infrastructure Materials operations. As you are aware, "Critical infrastructure materials" means sand, gravel, or rock aggregate. Utah Code 10-9a901(1). Although I have pointed this out, no one at the County has bothered to explain to me how this ordinance complies with this state code section. My only guess to justify this ordinance is that it is styled “an ordinance prohibiting mineral extraction” rather than prohibiting extraction of critical infrastructure materials. However, this justification fails because the text of the ordinance expressly prohibits extraction of “sand, gravel and/or rock aggregate.” Thus, where it was not prohibited before, this ordinance clearly prohibits critical infrastructure materials. Thus, it is illegal.

"This ordinance will affect the property rights of not only my client, but of many others. I hope that the County will press pause and engage in some discussions about this matter. I further hope that it is not the County’s conscious intention to disobey state law. Thank you for considering my comment."

HEAL Utah also gave a statement following the decision:

"HEAL Utah supports the recent decision from The Salt Lake County Council to amend current ordinances, halting further development of the proposed Parley's Canyon Mine. The mining operations and increased traffic would have caused an increase in harmful air pollution via poorly regulated fugitive dust and emissions that we could not afford. This carefully considered decision will prevent that.

"We thank the Salt Lake County Council for putting the health of communities over profit and applaud the leadership of organizations like Save Our Canyons and Save Parleys Canyon, who helped mobilize the community to protect our environment and our health."

FOX 13 News covered the growing opposition to the Parleys Canyon quarry last month: