There is an often-quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that reads, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” This concept is difficult to understand and accept during times of severe suffering and sacrifice such as what the world has experienced the past few months.
However, there is value to the knowledge gained during difficult trials. New growth can occur, and organizations can improve and achieve positive outcomes given the lessons learned and enough subsequent effort.
We have all had to quickly adjust to a “new normal.” Virtual meetings, masks, social distancing and limited human interaction have created new challenges, but it has also allowed us to analyze ways to be more efficient and prioritize how work gets done. While staff in the office is limited, we are all maintaining good electronic communication and ensuring that field inspections continue, permits are issued and dangerous abandoned mine openings safeguarded.
We hope this pandemic ends soon, but until then, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining staff is committed to maintaining a high level of service that ensures responsible development of Utah’s energy and mineral resources, while protecting public safety and the environment.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) has five upcoming abandoned mine closure projects scheduled to begin in late summer/early fall of 2020. Closures are designed to protect features of historic significance and animal habitat, while protecting the public from injuries or death. Abandoned mines are hazardous because they are no longer maintained, lack ventilation and may collapse. All of the work is performed with approval from landowners and in coordination with land management agencies. Below is a summary of several of these projects.
The Willard Peak Project proposes to safeguard approximately 50 abandoned hardrock mine openings on the west face of the Wellsville and Wasatch mountain ranges in Box Elder, Weber and Davis counties. All the openings are located on private land and lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The project will secure abandoned mine openings using earthen backfills, steel grates, concrete block walls, and polyurethane foam plugs.
The Buckmaster-OIG Project is located in Emery County, north of I-70 and east of the East Reef of the San Rafael Swell in Buckmaster Draw. The project will close approximately 40 abandoned uranium mine openings within a portion of the San Rafael River mining district. All the mines in the project are located on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and have been identified as high priority hazards to public safety by a directive from the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG). A second phase is planned to address the remaining abandoned mines in the district. Closure methods include earthen backfills, steel grates, and concrete block walls.
The White Canyon and Deer Flat Project proposes to safeguard 83 abandoned uranium mine openings and 30 vent holes in San Juan County. All the openings are located on public lands administered by the BLM and State Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). Access to the mines will be on existing routes designated in the BLM Monticello Travel Management Plan, however, some work areas will require temporary use of old mine roads, which are not designated routes. Closure methods include earthen backfills, steel grates, polyurethane foam plugs, and concrete block walls.
La Vonne J. Garrison has been appointed to the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining. She represents oil and gas interests.
Ms. Garrison recently retired as Assistant Director for Oil and Gas at the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) where she had been employed since 2000. For 20 years prior to that position, she was the Regional Land Manager for a Rocky Mountain oil and gas company headquartered in Salt Lake City.
Her past oil and gas experience also includes work as an independent landman, a geologic transcriber and work with a petroleum engineer. Ms. Garrison has a B.A. from the University of Montana at Missoula. She is a member of the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL), a past officer of the local chapter of AAPL, and a retired member of the Public Lands Committee for the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC).
Todd Miller is a biologist with the Coal Program and oversees the active coal mine operations in the state. He has been with the program for 2.5 years.
He ensures coal mine operators are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations relating to biology including the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).
His position makes certain that active coal operations are able to function and fulfill their role in energy development without creating undue negative environmental effects to wildlife and vegetation. He also ensures that when coal mines are reclaimed, they are done so in a way that enables the land to fulfill its highest and best post-mining land use. Usually that means the mine is reclaimed in a way that is best suited to encourage and aid wildlife but it can also be for grazing, recreational or other uses.
The best thing Todd likes about his job is the people he works with and the time he gets to spend outdoors.
Seeing a coal mine that has produced untold amounts of energy for the state in its lifetime and is now completely reclaimed and blended in to the point of being unnoticeable is pretty good too.
Todd went to school at Dixie State University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology as well as a Bachelor of Science in Human Communication. Prior to his position with the Coal Program, he spent 2.5 years working as a contractor for the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management in southern Utah and Arizona.
He is the proud father of three little girls ages 1-7. When Todd isn’t working, he enjoys getting outdoors as much as possible whether that is hiking, canoeing, riding motorcycles, nature photography or playing sports. He also likes to dabble in woodworking and outdoor cooking.