Utah will soon follow in the footsteps of Canada and Venezuela, opening its own tar sands mine on a remote ridge. Eco-activists were enraged, with some already being arrested, even though the CEO insists it will be the most “environmentally responsible” project of its kind ever.
After a decade of preparation and $100 million worth of investments, the Canadian company U.S. Oil Sands is almost prepared to open operations on a 50-square-mile mine in the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah. It will be the first in American history, and environmentalists are not happy.
Melanie Martin of the Tar Sands Resistance Movement called the scene heartbreaking.
“It’s heartbreaking to see what they’ve been doing out here. It’s impossible to reclaim and rehabilitate the land once they do what they are planning to do with it. The land is not going to come back for millennia.”
Nevertheless, CEO Cameron Todd has boasted that the mine will use new technologies to protect the environment according to KSL.
“We’re dedicated to having the world’s most environmentally responsible oil sands project ever built.”
The company will use a natural orange-peel extract to separate the oil from the dirt, a process usually involving harsh chemicals.
Likewise, the mine has had to comply with special requirements issued by the state of Utah. The company will have to strictly monitor local air and water quality — considered a key victory by activists — and it will have to try and rehabilitate the land instead of leaving barren land and open pits.
That’s not enough for many protesters in Utah.
According to AP, opponents have been camping out all summer. Some are regularly banging drums and holding signs saying “Dirty Energy Kills.”
EcoWatch reported that four people were arrested in recent protests to stop construction.
Still, the mine may have an even bigger problem than protesters — oil prices.
Tar sands extraction is a costly process, and with the price of a barrel currently around $47, even the company admits it can’t make a profit. During its 10-year construction and project development, the price of oil peaked at $147, which would make the mine lucrative.
The current low prices will likely hinder further tar sands development in Utah despite initial infrastructure costs. There is now a 45-mile, $86 million pristine highway directly to the area.
The state has also given approval for three more mines.
Whether companies will use those permits to build more mines in Utah’s tar sands remains to be seen.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]