Proposed Large Limestone Quarry for Parleys Canyon


Parleys Canyon may soon be home to an opencast limestone quarry, according to a proposal submitted to Utah mining regulators this month.

A recently formed LLC called Tree Farm proposes using explosives and drills to mine beneath the northeastern slopes of Grandeur Peak, a popular hiking spot from Mill Creek Canyon, with the goal of 2 million tons of crushed stone per year.

Prior to receiving questions from a reporter this week, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County officials were unaware of the project, which County Mayor Jenny Wilson said she was “very concerned about.”

“Mining will change the landscape, habitat and health of Parleys Canyon. But it’s also less than a mile from Grandeur Peak, and thousands of hikers, bikers, and skiers can safely recreate Mill Creek Canyon,” she said in an emailed statement. “This is inconsistent with Salt Lake County’s vision to preserve the unique qualities of our canyons and public health for generations to come. Instead, the development could scar the natural contours of the landscape and could irreversibly disturb the experiences of the countless inhabitants of these two canyons.”

On November 12, Tree Farm principal Jesse Lassley filed a notice of intent, or NOI, to “start small mining operations.” This application obtains approval from the Department of Petroleum and Mining (DOGM) of Utah to mine the foothills and process the on-site quarried limestone just east of Salt Lake City. NS Well-developed 344-page profile beginning a process that could lead to a significant mining operation inside one of the Wasatch Mountains’ busiest canyons, thousands of people commuting daily on Interstate 80, which connects the region Utah’s principal municipality with Park City.

An existing smaller quarry is cut into the hillside on the opposite side of the freeway.

Activity can begin as early as 30 days after applying under the urgent process Tree Farm requested. While Tree Farm has filed its notice under Utah Rules for Small Mining Operations, its proposal envisions a much larger footprint than the 10-acre limit for small deposits, regulations are different from larger mines.

The mine will require a conditional use permit from the county and will be subject to review for compliance with the county’s Foothills and Canyons ordinance.

There is some residential development near the quarry, but records acknowledge the site as an important wildlife habitat without reference to the nearby subdivision. Several recreational attractions are nearby, such as Aire Mountain, Mountain Dell Golf Course and Little Dell Reservoir. The proposed location places the mine adjacent to a major traffic corridor, reducing the impact associated with delivering crushed limestone to construction sites along Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back. The site just west of Aire Canyon is privately owned and served by an existing exit on the interstate.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Limestone aggregates are used in the production of concrete and have many different applications in construction.

The so-called “Silver Mine” will not target the mineral of the same name, but the NOI indicates that the quarry can produce unidentified precious metals in addition to synthetics. Miners are looking to mine the Jurassic Twin Creek Formation, which is 2,600 feet thick at the site and holds up to 1.1 billion tons of limestone.

The company pledged to put down a $3.1 million deposit to ensure the site would be properly repossessed.

Tree Farm owns a 634-acre parcel of land, surrounded mostly by federal land, and located about two miles south of the interstate about two miles from Mountain Dell Golf Course. The Parleys are among the Wasatch River basins that supply Salt Lake City with drinking water, but the mine is located downstream of these reservoirs.

However, sediment from this activity can be washed into Parleys Creek, which flows through an open channel through much of the city, including Sugar House Park. Salt Lake City Public Utilities Director Laura Briefer said she plans to review the proposal and identify issues of concern.

“We felt we needed more information. One [concern] is the water quality from the proposed activities. While it’s not upstream from our drinking water, it’s upstream from the city,” says Briefer. “We have read through the report. It doesn’t really consider the downstream water quality issues except that it will place the BMT [best management practices] in place to minimize migration of any contaminants or sediments. It’s not about long-term degradation.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The area in Parleys Canyon, November 22, 2021 where a proposed open-cast limestone quarry will be located, according to Utah mining regulators in November.

Groundwater could also be affected by mining activities, which may have a hydrological connection to Mill Creek Canyon to the south, she said.

Briefer wondered where the mine would get the bulk of the water needed for dust control.

“We have a lot of rights to go home with the Parleys. Do they intend to file a water rights application or change the water use rights that could compromise these water rights,” said Briefer. “There has been no public announcement of this.”

Contacted by phone Monday, Lassley said he would call back, but The Salt Lake Tribune had yet to receive a response at press time.

The operation would require a permit from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, specifically governing its potential impacts on air and water quality, according to his NOI filing.

According to the document, Lassley’s plan is to produce 500,000 tons of limestone per year for the first three to five years of operation, then increase to 2 million tons or more. To move so much limestone requires 137 truck trips per day with a load of 40 tons. To put this level of production into perspective, quarries in Utah produced 13 million tons of crushed stone in 2019, according to Geological Survey of Utah.

The mine’s maximum output will be licensed by the Utah Department of Air Quality, NOI reported. However, the company has yet to file any licensing applications with its division or parent agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, according to a spokesperson. Proposed Large Limestone Quarry for Parleys Canyon

Yasmin Harisha

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