The Draper City Council has initiated a process to restrict future expansion of mining operations in the city, citing adverse impacts to residents as the primary concern motivating the decision.
“We received an application from Geneva Rock a couple of times and the council got to discussing it and felt that it was important to the community for them to take a look at mining,” Draper spokesman Maridene Alexander told The Salt Lake Tribune.
She clarified that those discussions occurred in the most recent and previous public council meetings.
Geneva Rock, a gravel mining company, is one of several businesses with mineral extraction operations at the Point of the Mountain. The company came under fire in September after first proposing an expansion to its gravel pit mine at the location. It scaled back the proposal and withdrew it when told it would have to start the application process over.
“The mayor and some of the city council members got together [during public meetings] and decided that mining was causing an adverse impact on residents. They listened to what the citizens said and they felt like it was important to take heed of that to look at the future and how mining fits into that future. They decided that maybe it doesn’t,” Alexander said.
Council members last week approved a resolution 5-0. The endorsed plan to ban expanded mining would not affect the established legal rights of current mining operations.
“Our city is growing and changing. It is incumbent upon us to make prudent decisions that protect the health and well-being of our residents, support economic opportunities, and improve air quality,” Draper Mayor Troy Walker said in a press release. “We have heard loud and clear from our residents and our business community that expanding mining operations within the city limits is inconsistent with these values.”
Draper residents who have been invested in the issue are ecstatic about the move to tackle air pollution.
“It is what residents want and it is the optimal economic decision for Draper as it will ensure that Draper is a desirable community for Silicon Slopes and draw in the highly paid occupations of a clean-tech future,” longtime Draper resident Robert MacFarlane told The Tribune.
“I feel that this is not just a win for Draper City, but it will help ensure that Draper is not the source of additional air pollution from the windy Point of the Mountain,” MacFarlane said. “The dust from the Point of the Mountain can travel along the entire Wasatch Front under the wrong wind patterns, and this effort by Draper will ensure the problem does not get worse on our side. Lehi still has work to do containing mining.”
Lehi leaders recently sent a letter to residents assuring them that after looking into the mining operations within their jurisdiction, they have concluded that there is no significant health risk.
They cited a recent council presentation by Sam LeFevre, of the state’s Environmental Epidemiology Program in the Utah Department of Health.
“While construction work that puts a lot of dirt in the air is annoying, it is not a significant public health concern,” the letter said.
“Our opinion would be it is mining waste and it would be amorphous, or less dangerous” than crystalline silica that has been determined to be a health hazard, LeFevre told the council.
A primer on crystalline silica published by the U.S. Bureau of Mines says that silica, in crystalline and amorphous forms, is “present in nearly all mining operations.”
Still, the city said it would create an “environmental sustainability committee” to address such issues as air pollution, storm water pollution and recycling.
“We remain committed to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of our residents while promoting a family-friendly, innovative community,” said the letter signed by Mayor Mark Johnson and council members.
Correction: The Draper City Council vote on the resolution to restrict future mining was 5-0. The original version had an incorrect vote count. Also, Alexander, the city spokeswoman, clarified that the discussions of the issue by the mayor and council members occurred in public meetings.