Book Cliffs Mine

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Book Cliffs Mine is a proposed tar sands (oil sands) mine for Utah by Canadian energy company U.S. Oil Sands Inc.

By 2012 Utah regulators had issued permits to U.S. Oil Sands Inc. to mine nearly 6,000 acres. The mine, on a Utah School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration lease, would be drilled for up to 2,000 barrels of oil sands a day. If the company keeps its timetable, it would be the U.S.'s first sizeable oil sands mine, drilled by early 2014.[1]

On August 29, 2012, administrative law judge Sandra Allen affirmed Utah’s decision to approve the mine without requiring a groundwater pollution permit. The decision nearly concluded the state’s permitting. Judge Allen’s decision hinged on whether there was groundwater around PR Spring in the arid high country between Vernal and Moab. If so, the state might require a pollution permit for any chemicals that might leach in and ultimately reach the Colorado River. U.S. Oil Sands argued there was no saturated groundwater — just intermittent precipitation and a deep regional aquifer that would be unaffected—and therefore no need for a permit. Moab-based Living Rivers said it is likely that to appeal Judge Allen's decision.[2]

In October 2012, the Utah Water Quality Board voted 9-2 vote to uphold a regulator's previous ruling that the project would pose no threat of groundwater pollution. The 213 acres of arid land encompassing the site contains no significant groundwater, according to the state.[3]

According to the Utah Geological Survey, about 25 billion barrels of bitumen are buried on state and federal land that, if extracted, would supply the nation's oil needs for an estimated three years.[4]

Articles and Resources


  1. David Hasemyer, "Nation's First Tar Sands Mine Stirs Water, Environmental Fears Out West," InsideClimate News, Aug. 16, 2012.
  2. Brandon Loomis, "Judge recommends approving Utah tar sands mine," The Salt Lake Tribune, Aug 29 2012.
  3. David Unger, "Utah OKs first US oil sands project," CSM, Oct. 24, 2012.
  4. David Hasemyer, "Nation's First Tar Sands Mine Stirs Water, Environmental Fears Out West," InsideClimate News, Aug. 16, 2012.

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