Mesa Exploration Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, is proposing to mine potash from the Pilot Peak salt pan in the Pilot Valley of western Utah, near the famed Donner Springs at the eastern base of Pilot Peak. The proposed mine would affect a substantial portion of the Crater Mountains area proposed for wilderness by Sierra Club and its partners in the Utah Wilderness Coalition. The portion of the proposed wilderness (light orange) that intersects with the potash mining proposal can be seen on the map below.
It appears that Mesa Exploration was actively pursuing its interests on state land parcels in the area for some time. However, according to Utah BLM West Desert District Manager Kevin Oliver, no Bureau of Land Management (BLM) permits have been granted to Mesa as of yet, and all stakeholders will have the opportunity to weigh in once anything is made available for public comment.
As reported in an Elko, Nevada, newspaper in March, the BLM advised Mesa of its intent to deny the company's exploratory permit. According to various sources since then, the company has protested the denial of a permit and has launched a major lobbying campaign to overturn any such denial.
We can expect Mesa’s friends in the US House of Representatives and Senate to pressure BLM to reverse this decision. Sierra Club members and supporters can counterbalance corporate pressures by sending a message of support for Pilot Valley.
Pilot Valley was the scene of hardship for the Donner Party as they made their ill-fated trek across Utah’s West Desert imagining the so-called Hastings Cut-off Trail would save them time. Ruts from the Donner Party’s crossing are still visible in this remote valley. It’s also one of the best remaining examples of a pristine desert playa in the Great Basin.
Please express your support for the BLM's position. Send a message to BLM, National Park Service, Box Elder and Tooele County Commissioners, the Utah congressional delegation, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert. During this critical interim we encourage all to express support for the BLM's current position.
You can learn more about what Mesa is proposing on the section of their website regarding the Bounty Potash Project.
A large portion of the project area is already designated by congress as a National Historic Trail (as administered by the National Park Service) and as part of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS, as managed by the Bureau of Land Management). And late last year, the BLM released its new Trail Management Manual 6280, which creates new planning requirements for National Trails on BLM land that must take into account scenic, visual, cultural, and historic resources as well as recreation and visitor services, among other things.
Priority addresses where letters can be sent:
- Utah BLM State Director Juan Palma, 440 West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1345, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Utah BLM West Desert District Manager Kevin Oliver, 2370 South 2300 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2220, email@example.com
Other Important Contacts:
- Governor Gary Herbert, 350 North State Street, Suite 200, PO Box 142220, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220, Toll Free: (800) 705-2464, http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html
- Congressman Rob Bishop, 1017 Federal Building, 324 25th Street, Ogden, UT 84401, http://robbishop.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm.
- Congressman Jason Chaffetz, 51 S. University Avenue, Suite 318, Provo, UT 84601
- Congressman Jim Matheson, 9067 South 1200 West, Suite 101, West Jordan, UT 84008
- Congressman Chris Stewart, 136 E. South Temple St., Suite 900, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, https://stewart.house.gov/contact/email-me
Thanks to the Utah Crossroads Chapter of the Oregon California Trails Association and Wild Utah Project for background materials.