Don’t Get Me Started, Regulars and Shorts

Don’t Get Me Started: Albatross Spotted on Shores of GSL

By John deJong

On a clear day you can see an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
by John deJong


On a clear day you can see an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

The relatively clean air we have been enjoying since Kennecough operations were brought to a halt by April’s landslide has been on my mind, or rather hasn’t been on my mind. What a relief it is not to worry day-to-day whether it is safe to breath. I’m sure RioRico/Kennecough and the Utah Department of Environmental Degradation UDED (names have been changed to reflect the true nature of the players) would have us believe that any perceived improvement is a statistical fluke, is caused by global weirding or merely the placebo effect.

If, as Rio Rico/Kennecough would have us believe, the operations at the mine only contribute six percent of the Salt Lake valley’s pollution, then the shut-down should have no perceptible effect on our air quality. If, on the other hand, you believe the Sierra Club and Physicians for a Healthy Environment when they say the mine is responsible for 30% of the pollution in the valley, then it’s clear why our air is clearer.

Which brings up the question of what will happen when the mine closes for good, or bad. Currently there are no clean up funds. Which means Utah taxpayers will be stuck with those costs. It could be billions of dollars. Kennecough has spent millions trying to stabilize the 9,400 acre, 75 foot tall tailings dust pile north of Magna for years with only marginal success. Discussions are taking place between Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining DOGM and Rio Rico/Kennecough about what will happen to “the largest open pit mine”and other environmental legacies/albatrosses that will be left behind when the price of copper falls back to historic levels and Rio Rico sells it’s stake in order to bet on the next sure thing.

The Utah legislature and the governor really haven’t given DOGM much leverage in thenegotiations. Utah’s reclamation fees are the lowest in the country. Utah’s severance fees are among the lowest in the country which is one of the reasons Rio Rico bought Kennecough. One possible resource would be the large land holdings along the Oquirrhs owned by Rio Rico/Kennecough Land which were part of the deal when Rio Rico bought Kennecough in 1989. Maybe Utah should put a lien on that land until a satisfactory clean up fund is established.

This article was originally published on August 2, 2013.