Large Utah Tar Sands Mine a Threat to Region’s Water Supplies, Groups Say

Two environmental organizations are fighting a Canadian company’s plan to mine a massive reserve of oil sands in eastern Utah, saying the project would tax water supplies in what is already the U.S.’s second-driest state.

In what would be the U.S.’s first large-scale oil sands mining operation, Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands Inc. has already excavated a two-acre test mine at site called PR Spring and ultimately hopes to establish a sprawling, 6,000-acre mine as early as 2014.

According to the Utah Geological Survey, about 25 billion barrels of bitumen are buried on state and federal land in this region — enough to meet the nation’s oil needs for more than three years. But according to a report by Inside Climate News, it remains unclear whether there will be enough groundwater to support the industry long-term — not to mention the water needs of municipalities and private industries nearby.

Two groups, Living Rivers and the Western Resource Advocates, are appealing U.S. Oil Sands’ mining permit, arguing that the state of Utah ignored the threat to groundwater supplies. According to a letter from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, the mine is expected to use “116 gallons of water per minute on a 24-hour basis.”

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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