SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – While the movement to Save Parleys Canyon from an invasive gravel mine has scored big wins, Andrew Smith tells ABC4 that “the fight continues.”

ABC4 reported on more than 20,000 signatures by Salt Lake County citizens to petition against the construction of an open-pit gravel mine in Parleys Canyon. Smith, who works with SaveParleys.org, says that he was pleasantly “surprised by how the community has come together over the issue,” and that he made new friends and people he wouldn’t have without participating in the movement.

This kind of unanimous support for a hot issue in Utah is rare. Smith thinks its because the possibility of a mine in Parley’s Canyon would affect so many Salt Lake County residents so quickly. It helped contribute to legislation that the Salt Lake County passed resulting in a ban on mining operations in forestry and recreation areas; a big win for the Save Parley’s movement.

The primary concern about a gravel mine in Parley’s Canyon is related to its potential impact on Salt Lake County’s air quality. Open mines create “fugitive dust” from their operations, which spreads and settles on areas in proximity to the mine. Smith has lived near a different open gravel mine and he “could see a visible dust problem” at his home. “People would have to live with fugitive dust every day,” says Smith, commenting on the proposed mine in Parley’s Canyon.

The mine could also impact Utah’s water quality. Smith comments on how Utah’s dry climate means that “water supply is always a big issue.” “Water quality is always impacted by a mining project.” Specifically, Smith mentions how dust settling on snow at higher altitudes can cause the snow to melt earlier than normally, and cause potential pollutants to enter the water supply as well.

Besides the potential impact on Utah water and air quality, a mine in Parley’s Canyon would also result in severe environmental destruction. Open-pit mines like the one proposed mean there’s “no going back from destroying a mountain side.” This kind of dramatic habitat destruction would negatively effect displaced wildlife, and even potentially Utah hunting. Parley’s canyon presently has a rich ecology of elk, deer, and even moose, according to Smith.

Smith acknowledges that some might see a mine in Parley’s as an economic boost to Salt Lake County, but contends that the damage to Utah’s tourism and recreation industries would outweigh any benefit the mine could provide. Furthermore, Smith argues that the negative effect on the public would do much more economic damage than a number of industrial jobs could repair.

“Utah is blessed with geology as one of its greatest resource assets,” says Smith, “but mining doesn’t need to happen so close to residential areas.” He also explains that the supply of mineral resources that a gravel mine in Parley’s would hypothetically provide would be a great distance to where the demand in Utah would be; Utah is experiencing the most development growth outside of Salt Lake County in the first place.

Finally, despite current progress on slowing down mining propositions in Salt Lake County, Smith says that the fight needs to continue. “State legislators remain pretty silent on these issues” despite support from local governments, says Smith. He says that Utahns all along the Wasatch front need to continue to lobby for local and state legislators supporting community interests instead of private mining interests.