SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Canadian company’s plans to mine for copper and cobalt on Utah lands that were cut from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by President Donald Trump are angering conservation groups that are suing to keep the lands under monument protection.
Conservation and paleontology groups called attention this week to plans announced earlier this month by Glacier Lake Resources Inc. The company said in a news release it would begin surface exploration this summer and that drilling will be permitted shortly.
But officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining told the Deseret News that the company hasn’t filed any paperwork seeking permission to start operations.
A phone call and email message left for the company were not returned on Friday.
There’s been no known extraction work on lands cut from Grand Staircase and the Bears Ears national monuments since the window opened for requests in February.
The Bureau of Land Management had received four mining claims on the lands cut from Grand Staircase as of June 19, but none of those was from Glacier Lake Resources, said agency spokeswoman Kimberly Finch. The four companies that have expressed interested had not taken the next required step of submitting an operations plan and undergoing an environmental review, Finch said.
She didn’t immediately have information about claims put on the lands cut from Bears Ears.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining has not heard from company either, spokeswoman Hollie Brown told the Deseret News.
Several conservation and environmental groups sued to overturn the decision by Trump in December to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half.
Those lawsuits are pending. In the meantime, conservation groups are watching closely to ensure no lands are disturbed in the short-term, hoping a judge will side with them and return the monuments to the original boundaries.
Trump’s decision earned him cheers from Republican leaders in Utah who lobbied him to undo protections by Democratic presidents that they considered overly broad.
Conservation groups called it the largest elimination of protected land in American history.
Nada Culver, senior counsel to The Wilderness Society, said in a news release her organization will monitor Glacier Lake Resource’s plans and “will not stand by and watch mining companies rush to leave irreplaceable scars and damage the natural values of these lands.”
Glacier Lake said in the June 13 news release that the area where the company intends to mine, called the Colt Mesa deposit, was discovered in 1968 and was mined intermittently from 1971 to 1974.
The deposit is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument cut out from the original boundaries created by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Other lands taken out of the monument contain coal that a company was preparing to mine before the designation in the mid-1990s. It appears unlikely, however, that any company will immediately jump at the chance this time because of a decline in demand for coal production in Utah, state officials have said.
Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press writer.
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