John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

Few people in the modern United States have had to live with a lack of energy supplies.  Even as a student in the mid-1970s and facing the inconvenience of lines at the gasoline station, I still had access to fuel and energy. Today much of the world’s population still does not have access to electricity. The International Energy Agency reports that in 2018, 860 million people in the world did not have access to electricity, and over 2.6 billion people did not have access to clean cooking fuels. Energy poverty is very real to nearly 1 billion people on our planet.

Today much of the world’s population still does not have access to electricity. The International Energy Agency reports that in 2018, 860 million people in the world did not have access to electricity, and over 2.6 billion people did not have access to clean cooking fuels. Energy poverty is very real to nearly 1 billion people on our planet.

When people do not have adequate energy fuels, they may spend hours each day gathering resources simply to cook. Often times, this job is left to women and children which curtails their basic survival needs or opportunities for education. There are also negative impacts on human health and safety, whether it’s the need for one street light for safety in a small African village or electricity for a regional clinic to help the sick.

Imagine what our lives would be without access to electricity or safe, clean cooking/heating fuels- cold showers in the winter, sweating in the summer heat, inability to find or cook food, walking or biking everywhere, not to mention no cell phones and computers. We are very fortunate to have such comforts and would be wise not to take these conveniences for granted.

I am thankful that I can be engaged in the important public service of facilitating responsible development of energy and minerals for the benefit of people in Utah and beyond our state’s borders. It may make only slight difference for those human beings who are trapped in situations of energy poverty, but it can increase the quality of life for those who benefit from such resources.  And maybe in a small way, those benefits can trickle down to solve human problems throughout the world.


In the fall of 2018, Coal Program staff oversaw the reclamation of the Horizon coal mine, a bond forfeiture site in Carbon County. It took roughly three months to remove the coal mine’s five-acre footprint and re-contour the site to match the surrounding landscape. Topsoil recovered from stockpiles was placed on the final grade of the hillslopes above the riprap-hardened channels. Straw mulch was spread and incorporated into the soil by creating large divots called pocks that aid in soil stability and water retention. Two seed mixes, riparian and shrub/grassland, were spread before the winter season started.

In 2018, staff contracted with the Utah Correctional Industries (UCI) horticulture program to grow native plants to be used at the site. UCI runs an impressive greenhouse used to train inmates in all aspects of growing ornamental species. This was an opportunity for them to add native species to their teaching curriculum. UCI propagated some species from “mother” plants and others from seed. Plants were ordered for delivery in 8-inch long tubeling size for ease of carrying, planting and watering-in. However the plants were so vigorous that many had been transplanted into one and two gallon pots.

In early October staff returned to the site to plant approximately 1,000 plants to aid in the revegetation efforts. A planting schematic was created by Coal Program Biologist Todd Miller detailing where each species should be planted. Four employees from Millcreek Gardens were sub-contracted by UCI to complete the work over four days. Coal Program staff from Price and Salt Lake City were on site daily to deliver water from a 1,000 gallon water tank and 400 feet of hose. Staff also hauled water using backpack sprayers to hundreds of plants out of reach of the hose. Staff also spent a full day spraying and removing noxious weeds.

Coal Program staff would like to thank the crew from Millcreek Gardens who encountered the less than ideal conditions of hard soil and rocks; UCI Officer Todd Barszcz and the inmate staff who nurtured the plants over the year; and the Division of Wildlife Resources for their time and water truck.
The following upland and riparian species were grown:                                                                   

Upland SpeciesRiparian Species
Oak brush
Quercus gambelli
Nebraska sedge
Carex nevrascensis
Populus tremuloides
Beaked sedge
Carex rostrata
White Fir
Abies concolor
Horsetail equisetum
Equisetum arvense
Big-toothed Maple
Acer grandidentum
Symphoricarpos oreophilus
Amelanchier alnifolia
Wood Rose
Rosa woodsii
Birchleaf mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus
Willow (peachleaf and coyote)
Salix sp.
Purshia tridentata
Water Birch
Betula occidentalis
Blue elderberry
Sambucus cerulea


Kent Phillips, Project Manager, Utah Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.

Kent Phillips is a project manager for the Division’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program. He has been with the program for approximately two years.  He works to reclaim and restore lands that were mined before the Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act of 1977 was passed. Since starting with the Division, he has overseen reclamation of several large projects including the $2 million dollar Kenilworth project and $230,000 Chief One Subsidence project in Eureka. 

His position protects public safety by sealing off hazardous mines and addressing issues affecting the environment and resources. “Development is a necessary component of our society, albeit with inherent potential for significant impacts to the environment and public safety if carried out irresponsibly,” commented Kent. “I believe that abandoned mine lands have left us with prime examples of what exactly these potential impacts are if resource development is left unregulated.” 

He says the best part of his job is working with a diverse array of stakeholders – from the public to government agencies across all levels, his knowledgeable co-workers, and private contractors and consultants. 

Kent has a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Appalachian State University and a Master of Science in Mining Engineering from Virginia Tech University. Before joining the AMRP, he was a consultant at URS/AECOM consulting firm where he worked with program staff on reclamation projects. 

In his free time, Kent enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, and trail running with his dog Tommy.


The Board of Oil, Gas and Mining is accepting nominations for 2020 Environmental Excellence Awards now through Friday, February 21.

Environmental Excellence Awards recognize reclamation projects, technological innovations, and best practices going above and beyond what is normally expected under industry practices and regulatory requirements. It is an opportunity for companies to demonstrate technical expertise and pride in their industry, and concern not only for the economics of their industry, but also for our environment. 

Nomination forms are available online at


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