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In Wake of Colorado Mine Spill, Utah Protestors Disrupt Construction of Book Cliffs Mine

Photo courtesy Peaceful Uprising
A person atop a tripod stops vehicle traffic in an attempt to disrupt work at the US Oil Sands tar sands mine site.

Four protestors have been arrested after disrupting construction of a tar sands mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah Monday. Environmental activists say they’re hoping that the recent spill of wastewater from a Colorado mine will bring attention to the threats posed by mining.

Jesse Fruhwirth with the activist group Peaceful Uprising says there is a lesson to be learned from the abandoned Gold King Mine that last week spewed 3 million gallons of wastewater laden with heavy metals into waterways from Colorado to New Mexico to Utah.

“There’s thousands of similarly dangerous mines ready to burst just like this one, and companies like US Oil Sands in the state of Utah propose beginning a whole new era of generating new disasters in the same water system,” Fruwirth says.

Protestors of the tar sands strip mine being built in Uintah and Grand counties say they stopped construction work for several hours by dangling two people from 25 feet tripods, until police officers managed to get them down and arrest them, along with two others assisting them. Raphael Cordray with Utah Tar Sands Resistance says she’s been camping and holding vigil at the mine since May. She hopes these actions will help people understand what’s at stake.

“It’s incredibly beautiful up here. People have no idea,” Cordray says. “There’s spring water. It’s a very absurd and dangerous project to be going at the top of this ridge.”

The Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining recently approved an expansion of the US Oil Sands strip mine operation, but also required the company to monitor for potential water contamination. That came after a University of Utah study found US Oil Sands mining plans could pose a risk to nearby waterways.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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