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Residents Versus Geneva Rock

Dec 07, 2015 09:23AM ● Published by Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon

Draper - Early this fall was a tense time for Draper City residents. Geneva Rock, part of the Clyde Companies based in Utah County, submitted a rezone proposal to the city that would allow it to expand its current mine at the Point of the Mountain. The residents, especially those with houses along South  Mountain, were stunned. The general consensus seemed to be that the mine is close enough, and already a problem.

“Finding out this October that Geneva has plans to double their mining operation into the hills behind the house for the next 50 years was very disheartening,” Amy Allen said.

Groups were formed, and  residents contacted local leaders and media in protest. If accepted, Geneva Rock would have had an additional 180 acres of mining rights to the mountain. Because of the social outcry, Geneva Rock withdrew its proposal near the end of October. 

 “We are working with each party to address questions, identify concerns and collaborate on solutions. At this time, we are still working to develop our proposal addressing the future of mining at the Point of the Mountain. It is best that we deliver that proposal at the right time to the right people to ensure our prospective plans are clearly communicated,” an official statement from Geneva Rock said. 

Some residents were not appeased by the withdrawal however.

“We see this as a strategic move by Geneva Rock. It’s an attempt for them to diffuse the mass public outcry that they are seeing, and by withdrawing from this request now, it leaves them to open to submit a new request for a lesser area or a slightly different request, immediately,” Adrian Dybwad, who is with a group called Stop Geneva Rock, said according to Fox 13. 

David Przybyla, the marketing manager for Clyde Companies, confirmed that they are drafting a new proposal and will present it in the future. But, he was adamant that the company is determined to find a solution that works for everyone, including residents and hang gliders. 

Geneva Rock is one of five companies under the name of Clyde Companies. The Clyde family established its first company in the 1920s in Utah County, and since then has expanded its operations throughout the mountain west. Geneva Rock mines for gravel and sand throughout its 15 Utah mines. They provide a specific type of rock that is crucial for concrete and other building materials. These materials are very specific and are only found in specific locations.

A significant portion of Utah’s roads were built with Geneva Rock materials, as well as many other large, public buildings. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Conference Center, City Creek, Provo Recreation and Powder Mountain are some of the larger projects that used Geneva materials. 

What may not be widely known is that Geneva Rock is only one of three companies that mine on the mountain. If Geneva Rock were to move, there is still a potential for continued or increased mining in the area. 

While Geneva Rock concentrates on the operations of the mine, the residents concentrate on the effects the mine has on their community. The Flight Park is immediately adjacent to the mine, and the two even share private roads. Geneva Rock claims a consistent good relationship with the hang gliders, and says that they attend their meetings quarterly and enjoy working with them, as well as periodically sponsoring events for them. 

The residents  next to the Flight Park experience the side effects of the mining operation most poignantly. There is a Facebook group called “Stop Geneva Rock” that has helped neighbors communicate their concerns since the proposal a few months ago. Many are concerned about the amount of dust, the lack of regulation and control of that dust, and the long term effects on their, and the valley’s, health.

Mining any material is prone to produce airborne waste, and this mine is no different. Along with the rock and sand that is collected, there are also traces of silica. Silica is a particulate matter that is measured by its width in micrometers. This crystalline silica falls under the PM 2.5 measurement which means it is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, whereas a human hair is 50 to 70mm wide. When silica is airborne and then brought in a human body through the nose or mouth, the particles get stuck within the lungs and can cause problems.

Geneva Rock is currently collaborating with the state of Utah in a wind study to determine how much particulate is launched into the air, and how much is needed to define a problem. However, some residents say they have developed health problems since moving into the area.  

“My nose is constantly stuffed up and I use an inhaler for my asthma that had been under control for years until I moved to Draper. Our roommate and others in the neighborhood have constant nose bleeds too.” Allen said. 

Allen has also done her own research into the silica coming from the mine.

 “It is like asbestos (another silicate material) and causes lung cancer, COPD, immune disorders, kidney and heart issues,” she said.

Not only is the dust a concern for the presence of silica, but for its contribution to the pollution that the Salt Lake valley is constantly battling already. However, referring to several charts produced by the state of Utah through the Division of Environmental Quality, the contribution of mines to the poor air quality is significantly low. The biggest contributor during any time of year is automobiles and trucks. 

During the summer months, which is generally the most active time for the mines as well as the residents of the valley, all the mining operations combined with any industrial contribution is about 12 percent, while cars and trucks contribute to 41 percent of the problem.  

“If we closed the Draper mine, we would have to truck in all of the materials that are in such high demand for the growing construction. We feel we would be contributing to the pollution more by doing this, than by the actual mining operation itself,” Pryzbyla said.

In contrast, Allen proposes a possible solution. 

“It is now time to be good stewards of their industry and exploit one of their many other gravel mines in Utah.  When they move, they can use the available rail system to bring it to the center of town; it is the responsible way to proceed,” she said.

Even the residents themselves are divided on what they would like to see happen with the current mine. While Geneva Rock drafts a new proposal, some of the residents have ideas of what they would like to see happen. Emily Yates, who has lived in Draper for three years, said, “No further expansion outside of the current operations in place.”  

Kristjan Morgan who has lived in Draper for five years said, “I understand the need for building material, and I understand the tax revenue generated for Draper City, but I believe now is the time to move the mine out of the area. There are dozens of locations within 30-50 miles that they could take aggregate from, away from congested residential areas.”

Geneva Rock has invested in ways to decrease their carbon footprint, including an $8 million water system to decrease the dust picked up by the heavy winds in the area, and an extensive conveyor belt system that saves trucks a trip up the mountain, conserving gas. 

 “When the conveyer is running, it generates approximately 1000 kw/hour. The average home uses 10,000 kw/hours a month. So about 10 hours of running it would power a home for a month,” Pryzbyla said.

The power it generates helps to power the mine, or excess goes back into the power grid.

It seems this debate will continue for many months to come, and may possibly be a never-ending battle. The demand for materials in the rapidly growing Utah and Salt Lake counties will continue to drive the mining companies to look for local resources, while residents will continue to fight for their quality of life. 

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