SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Though Parley’s Canyon, which houses the corridor of Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City and Park City, may not be as quiet and pristine as the neighboring Millcreek and Emigration canyons, a drive along this stretch of road provides with views of surrounding mountains and the wildlife that call this landscape home. Hikes stemming from Millcreek Canyon look over this crevasse, and with both the view of I-80 far below and the rolling foothills to the north, the sight is spectacular and awe-inspiring. As far as stretches of major highways go, this one could certainly be considered among the more beautiful.

There is one slight blip, however. On the northernmost side of the road, several miles from Salt Lake, there is a 12-acre quarry marring the landscape. And should a new proposal be approved, this stretch of land will also be home to another mine – though this one would be much larger.

The proposed mine – a limestone quarry rather discordantly named the ‘Silver Mine’ – would disturb the entirety of the 634-acre parcel owned by Tree Farm LLC, the company intending to excavate the property, over the next 100 years.

Residents of the local Mount Aire neighborhood – which is very near to the proposed mining site – were made aware of the proposal on November 24 and have some grave concerns about how it will affect their quality of life.

The proposed mining site, photo courtesy of Nathan Rees

“For me and my family, we use this area as a way to escape the hustle of Salt Lake City. We’re able to go out, without traveling too far, and enjoy the nature, the scenery, and the quiet,” says Nathan Rees, who lives in the Mount Aire community. “If the mine was put next door to Mount Aire, it would definitely change the feeling and the atmosphere of the area.”

Rees says his family might consider leaving the area should the mine project come to fruition.

The mining operations would also alter the way the residents access their homes, according to Marc Norman, who also lives in the Mount Aire community.

“This mine would access the same road we utilize and would greatly alter our access to the canyon,” he says.

According to Norman, Mount Aire residents park along I-80’s frontage road, specifically in the winter months, to access their homes by snowmobile. He is unsure how the mine operations would affect this.

But beyond just their own comfort, residents are also concerned about the effects the mine will have on the greater Salt Lake City community and the people – and animals – that call it home.

According to Norman, the area is a critical habitat for elk in the winter months. He says it’s not uncommon to see herds of upwards of 200 cows and calves during the colder season.

“This is where they go, this is where there’s no snow,” Norman says. “This mine would change that quite drastically.”

And with the prevalence of inversions in the Valley, residents are also concerned about the proposed mine adding to Salt Lake’s already poor air quality.

“There’s been a lot of complaints from residents of Millcreek and Salt Lake City on the other side of I-80 of the amount of particulate matter that gets blown out of the canyon from the mining operations [of the already existing quarry],” Norman says. “So now you’re going to put another mine that I believe is about six or seven times the size directly across the street and those emissions are going to come down into Salt Lake City.”

Rock quarrying has been shown to be related to increased particulate matter (PM) pollution. According to a 2021 report, Salt Lake City ranked as the 7th most polluted large metropolitan area in the United States. PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, is Utah’s main air pollutant, especially in the winter months, and contributes heavily to the much-despised inversion, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Elements like outdoor recreation also have an effect on the quality of life for residents, and the presence of a mine could wreak havoc on the celebrated trails in this region.

“If you’re a hiker hiking Grandeur Peak, you would come up to the Millcreek crest and look directly into this pit mine,” Norman says. “From a hiker’s perspective, what once was a pretty pristine area is now going to be entirely an open mine.”

Utah has long been lauded for its natural resources. But this doesn’t just apply to the products of the mining that has been present in the area since the 1800s. It also speaks to the vast opportunities for outdoor recreation and natural views that are currently attracting the masses to the state.

“It seems just kind of crazy that this can happen in the central Wasatch, where so many users are utilizing this area,” Norman says. “Could you imagine this right next to Snowbird? This is quite impactful.”