Utah History
6:00 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

BLM Rejects Mineral Exploration In West Desert

Old wagon wheels left on the Great Salt Lake Desert in 1846 by the Donner Party. They were found in the 1930s by another group of explorers who wanted to trace the Donner Party's route.
Credit ilovehistory.utah.gov

An energy company is back in court again, pushing to mine near a historic pioneer trail. For the second time, federal land managers have rejected a mineral exploration company's proposal to prospect for potash in a section of the western Utah desert which was once crossed by the ill-fated Donner Party in 1846.

The Bureau of Land Management nixed an effort by Mesa Exploration Corporation which seeks to create a potash mine on a dry lake bed near the Nevada line about 20 miles north of Wendover.

The BLM denied a prospecting permit to Mesa Exploration last year, and the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company appealed that decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Mesa Exploration submitted the appeal proposal four weeks ago.

Kevin Oliver, the west desert district manager for the BLM says the IBLA should have all the information by August but says the ultimate decision may take awhile.

"It may take anywhere from one year to two years on the appeal, and typically that decision will let us know, the BLM, whether they uphold our decision or if they believe we made an error in that decision," said Oliver. 

Historians have praised the BLM's decision saying unspoiled sections of historic trail traversed by covered-wagon pioneers are rare and must be preserved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.