Revised mining proposed from Geneva expected soon
Residents of Draper and Lehi are concerned about recent efforts by Geneva Rock to expand its mining operation at the Point of the Mountain. Homeowners on both the Lehi and Draper sides of the Point are concerned about the potential for poor air quality created by increased fugitive dust and aggravated by what they see as Geneva’s poor planning.
In September, Geneva Rock approached Draper City with a request to rezone about 73 acres of land in the Sage Canyon area from agriculture to mining. In the face of large public outcry, Geneva brought a substitute proposal to the September 12 Draper City Council meeting. The proposal was denied and the company was directed to take further proposals to the Planning Commission.
Residents are very concerned about health risks posed by increased mining activity near a residential area and say Geneva is attempting to compensate for “illegal mining” that has been going on in Lehi, where it was given permission to do “mass grading” on land owned by Perry Homes in Sage Canyon with the promise that houses would be built there.
“They call it mass grading [in Lehi], which doesn’t draw people’s attention the same way that ‘mining’ does,” said Adrian Dybwad, a Draper homeowner. “They are mining with a large-scale mining permit from the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining in a residential area in Lehi and they are calling it mass grading. The reason they have to do a rezone with Draper is to finish that project.”
The plans for the area include a road that is meant to go where a “highwall” of earth is currently located. The planned slope cannot be achieved without permission to take earth out from the Draper portion of the canyon.
Dybwad compared the situation to starting construction on a building before getting permission for half of the site. “If you start a building project without having permission to do the entire site, then you’re running the risk of not being able to finish your building as proposed.”
David Kallas, spokesman for Geneva Rock, rejected the idea that the company is seeking a rezone to address the issues with the slope. “We are seeking a rezone of our property because…we would like to mine there,” he said. “There’s a tremendous demand for gravel and that’s where the resource exists.”
He addressed the relationship between the Lehi and Draper properties saying, “There is a nexus to Lehi in that we are doing work in the Sage Canyon area. We’re not the property owner but we’ve been hired to do the grading work for that residential development. And the rezoned property we are requesting is the property next door to that. The rezone in Draper would have an impact on that because there’s a shared border.”
Kallas said that in response to feedback from residents, Geneva will submit a new proposal to Draper City that reduces the proposed zone change (the area which would be mined) from 73 acres to 18.5 acres.
The new proposal is expected soon as Geneva is on a November 30 deadline from the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Department of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) to submit a plan which corrects the highwall. A main purpose of DOGM is to ensure reclamation of mined land. Reclamation is the process of restoring land that has been mined to a natural or economically usable state.
Hollie Brown, Public Information Officer for DOGM, said that Geneva needs to correct its Reclamation Plan because it “oversteepened a highwall” in Sage Canyon and DOGM doesn’t believe it can be corrected to meet Lehi City requirements for the slope. “A Geneva representative said they could backfill the slope to this angle, but even if it’s technically feasible, which we aren’t sure it is, it would cost a lot of money,” Brown said.
Brown said the proposal Geneva submitted to Draper City “would have allowed them to mine the whole mountain and resolve the highwall issue.” If Geneva doesn’t get approval for the zone change from Draper, it could go to Lehi and ask permission to leave the highwall at its present slope, which would meet DOGM requirements.
Lehi Public Works Director Todd Munger said if Geneva approached Lehi with such a request the City would consider the proposal based on a number of factors. “It would need to meet development standards,” Munger said.
Residents in the area of the proposed mining expansion have organized a Change.org petition, delivered flyers to neighbors, and turned out in droves to Draper’s City Council meeting on September 12 to express opposition to the expansion. Around 100 people turned out to that meeting.
The property is actually closer to Traverse Mountain (TM) residents than Draper residents, said TM resident Delane Barrus, so TM residents have also been concerned about the effort to expand operations in Draper. Over two dozen Lehi residents submitted comments to the Draper City Council regarding the expansion proposal.
“The zone actually abuts Lehi homes,” Barrus said. “We have had quite a bit of interest on this including residents signing the petition and putting flyers on mailboxes and homes.”
Carey Brown, a paragliding pilot, created the Change.org petition, which has gathered over 5,600 signatures out of its targeted 7,500.
“Mining and other gravel pits are a significant culprit in polluting local air quality,” the petition reads. “Local research and environmental organizations show Geneva Rock has knowingly distributed fugitive dust and crystalline silica into our air…Geneva Rock’s expansion is a potential danger to homes and safety in Draper.”
Brown said she was “pleasantly surprised” at the turnout to the Draper City Council meeting earlier this month. She said people are “surprised and shocked” when they hear about the proposal. They are typically dismayed to find out how easily land can be rezoned from agricultural to mining, exposing their homes and families to risks they didn’t plan for when they bought their homes.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) stated on its website, “If approved this would expose Draper and much of Salt Lake and Utah Counties to a significant source of dust pollution for the next several decades.” The organization sent a letter of opposition to Draper City and encouraged residents to attend the Draper City Council meeting held September 11.
Geneva Rock states that it follows a dust mitigation plan which is designed to comply with state requirements and protect air quality.
“Since our founding in 1954, the company has prioritized the interests of the community and the importance of corporate responsibility,” the company states on its website. “Part of this commitment includes strict compliance with laws related to public safety. We consistently take a proactive approach to ensure that we meet or exceed requirements.”
Interested parties are now watching both Draper and Lehi public meetings, waiting to see Geneva’s new proposal.