Approximately 80 environmental protestors are attempting to halt construction of a strip mine being built in Uintah County.
The mine, located in the Book Cliffs, is reportedly on track to be the first tar sands mine in the United States.
Opponents to the project say nearly 80 acres of forest and sage land have been leveled in preparation for mine construction, which they call a devastating blow to the environment.
U.S. Oil Sands, a Canada-based mining corporation, has plans to build the mine on state lands leased from the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. The mine, which is in early stages of construction, is scheduled to produce 2000 barrels of oil per day.
Cameron Todd, chief executive officer of U.S. Oil Sands, said the company has all necessary approval to move forward with the project.
“The project has been approved by all the branches of government that are relevant,” said Todd. “It’s been through numerous appeals, significant scientific and environmental review, passed with all flying colors and has withstood every appeal that’s been granted against it.”
Opponents to the construction question the wisdom of the project location—the Colorado River Basin. They said the water systems in the area provide drinking water to 40 million people and claim the resources are severely over-tapped and endangered by industrial waste. They believe these problems would be aggravated with the construction of the mine.
Todd said the project is designed to be the most environmentally-responsible heavy oil project ever built, with enormous economic advantages and technological improvements to protect the environment.
Protesters have trespassed into the mine area, which Todd said may be dangerous.
“Our concern is to ensure that this active mine site and industrial construction area is maintained safe,” said Todd. “There are places where people who are not authorized to put themselves and others at risk by going, and so we monitor that pretty closely to try and ensure that nobody gets hurt.”
The protest is reported to be the culmination of a week-long direct action Climate Justice Summer Camp training that took place within miles of the mine.