Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Groups challenge plans for Utah tar sands mine

A small Canadian company, in need of millions for its ambitious plans, also is facing stiff opposition from two Utah environmental groups that are trying to thwart its efforts to build one of the first commercial tar sand mines in the country. Earth Energy Resources, based in Calgary, Alberta, received approval a year ago from the staff of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining to begin working a 62-acre deposit on the Uintah County-Grand County line.

But opposition from Moab-based Living Rivers and Peaceful Uprising has thrown that decision to Division Director John Baza, who said Tuesday at an informal hearing he anticipates ruling on the company’s mining permit within the next 30 days. “Even then, my decision won’t necessarily be final,” Baza said, indicating that anyone who disagrees with his ruling can appeal to the board of the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.

Earth Energy Resources contends its process is environmentally friendly and uses citrus-based solvent to recover heavy oil, or bitumen, from tar sands. “We can extract the bitumen in a far more responsible manner than has been done to date anywhere in the world,” said Barclay Cuthbert, Earth Energy’s vice president of operations. “We are eager to get this project under way.” Environmentalists such as John Weisheit of Living Rivers aren’t convinced. The Salt Lake Tribune