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Protesters demonstrate against planned tar-sand mine in eastern Utah

Published February 21, 2013 10:28 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

More than 100 protesters pounded drums, marched in a circle and decried a proposed fuel-producing tar sands mine in eastern Utah — drawing curious onlookers under the dome of the state Capitol Thursday evening.

The demonstration wasn't aimed at any particular piece of legislation but instead was focused on a planned operation between Vernal and Moab by Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands. The Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining gave the approval for the first stage of the mine in January. It will cover 213-acres.

Jesse Fruhwirth, who was an organizer of the protest, said he hoped to put pressure on potential investors in the Canadian firm by showing there is concern about the effects tar sands mining will have on the environment. He also said he'd like to see lawmakers adopt anti-tar sands mining legislation this session.

The protesters also brought down Francois Paulette, an elder in the Dene Tribe, to speak out against the project.

"If you begin to exploit the land, in a very short time, you're going to lose your history, your children the future of your people here," he said.

Tar sands are a mixture of clay, sand, water and bitumen. In mining it, companies seek to extract the bitumen and refine it into oil.

In January, the chief executive officer of U.S Oil Sands told The Salt Lake Tribune that the project "will be a strong example of environmental presence."

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero