Year in Review – 2018

Oil and Gas Program

Oil and Gas Program staff worked on the exploration and production waste disposal facilities five year permit renewals requiring operators to have full-cost bonding for their facilities. The state rule, modified and approved by the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining in 2013, required an independent, third party review of reclamation and closure cost estimates be submitted by July 2018 and that the Division issue new permits for these facilities, which are valid for five years.

Twenty eight of the 30 facilities submitted permit applications by the deadline. Operators who did not submit an application are no longer permitted to operate; operators who do not post a full cost bond or otherwise fulfill the permit application requirements will not have their permits renewed and will not be allowed to operate. Operators without a valid permit will be required to reclaim their facilities.

Bonding protects the Division and the state of Utah against expensive reclamation costs requiring state funds.

The Uinta Basin has seen a boom in horizontal well development. There are presently about 200 horizontal wells drilled in the Basin. As operators drill more wells, they are becoming increasingly more productive with advancing technology and science.  Industry experts have estimated that there are 55 billion barrels of oil in place in the Uinta Basin, and this production per section can compete with any other fields in the the country.

Over the last year, three program managers retired with over 95 years Division experience between them. In addition, two experienced field inspectors also left the Division. It is always difficult to replace institutional knowledge and it has been a challenge to replace those valuable employees. However, staff stepped up to fill these voids and we have moved forward with hiring new staff so the program can continue providing quality services to the state of Utah. 

Coal Program

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. Reclamation involved demolishing and sealing the portals, re-establishing the stream channels through the facility and parking fill pads, and applying topsoil, mulch and seed to the final contoured slopes.

The  program had a very busy year with 69 permit amendments processed, 271 field inspections, 90 water quality reports produced, and two bond release applications. Program staff approved significant coal lease additions at several operations extending coal mining well into the future in Utah. Additionally, the Emery No. 2 Mine began producing coal in earnest this year and the Division has received a new permit application package for the construction of the Kinney No. 2 Mine located near Scofield Reservoir. 

The program also saw the retirement of two long-time and devoted employees: Program Manager Daron Haddock and Biologist Joe Helfrich with 68 years of combined experience. A new program manager will be hired in February.

Minerals Program

The Minerals Program received new applications for five large mines in 2018. Three are for engineered rock products and two are for salts. The most significant application is the Sevier Playa project which is proposed to produce 328,500 tons of potassium sulfate fertilizer annually. This project would cover much of the bed of Sevier Lake and would include other processing and transportation facilities. The Division is not yet ready to approve the project. 

The Scipio Pass quarry has been issued tentative approval and would disturb 160 acres near I-15 in Millard County. Clyde Companies anticipates producing 200,000 tons of aggregate products per year for the first five years, with the life of mine currently expected to be 30 years. Two other large mines for aggregate products have been proposed for Washington County.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program

In 2018, the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) completed three coal and six non-coal abandoned mine reclamation projects. Work consisted of the construction of 1,600 feet of stream channel at Kenilworth, a previously reclaimed abandoned coal mine, the installation of a concrete plug and backfilling of a subsidence hole with over 13,000 cubic yards of fill material, and the closure of approximately 243 hazardous abandoned mine openings statewide. In addition, maintenance was performed at 15 previously closed abandoned mine sites.  

The program received an award for work completed on the Wolf Den Fire reclamation project in the Uintah Basin. The National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) publicly recognized Utah for the exemplary physical safety hazard mitigation in the reclamation of abandoned hard rock mines and presented them the nation’s highest achievement at its annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Steve Fluke, AMRP manager and AMRP Archaeologist Seth Button attended the banquet and accepted the award.

Education outreach efforts included the distribution of more than 23,000 “Mining Utah’s Heritage” workbooks to 4th grade classes, designing and printing 1,700 calendars for distribution featuring historic coal mines from Carbon County’s Spring Canyon, and participating in 13 public outreach events.

2019 Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program Calendars Available

Each year the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) Program creates a calendar highlighting the history of mining in Utah. The calendar is part of the fourth grade education program focusing on abandoned mine safety.

This year marks 150 years since the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869, linking the nation coast to coast by rail. The AMR Program chose to celebrate this anniversary by recognizing the inextricably linked histories of mines and rails. 

Mines use rail for efficient haulage onsite and rely on railroads for offsite shipping. Railroads are today as they were in 1869, one of the most efficient ways to move heavy loads over land. For Utah mines, the transcontinental railroad meant an affordable path to new markets and a way to bring in new workers.

If you would like a free calendar, please send your mailing address to

Wolf Den Fire Reclamation Project Receives Award

The Division’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) received an award for work completed on the Wolf Den Fire reclamation project in the Uintah Basin. The National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) publicly recognized Utah for the exemplary physical safety hazard mitigation in the reclamation of abandoned hard rock mines. AMRP staff were presented with the nation’s highest achievement at the NAAMLP annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Steve Fluke, AMRP manager and AMRP Archaeologist Seth Button attended the banquet and accepted the award.

In 2012, a lightning strike in the Wolf Den Range resulted in a range fire at the Black Dragon gilsonite site. The seam, old timber supports and gilsonite pillars, and waste piles of gilsonite on the surface caught fire. The heat resulted in secondary surface fires, and since hot gilsonite is ductile, like asphalt, as well as flammable, streams of melting gilsonite ran like ribbons of lava. 

The Utah AMRP chose a closure approach using prepared sediment as fill. The fire was snuffed and open trenches were filled using material obtained from the borrow area and treated with water. This closure addressed not only the hazard of the slow-burning fire and flows of gilsonite, but hazards from smoke and physical hazards. 

Earth work started in July 2015 and was completed in October 2018. The total construction cost was $146,335. Mark Wright served as the OGM project manager.

Employee Highlight – Fall 2018

Seth Button is an archaeologist and project manager for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP). He has been with the Division for a year and a half. As a project manager, he is responsible for leading projects from the identification of abandoned mines through compliance with state and federal regulations to construction/reclamation. As an archaeologist, he helps ensure that all program projects comply with applicable state and federal laws governing the treatment of cultural resources.  

The program promotes public safety by reclaiming abandoned coal and hard rock mines throughout the state. AMRP works within the framework of the National Historic Preservation Act to take into account the effects on our projects on biological and cultural resources. Seth helps program project managers and their partner agencies accomplish their mission while protecting the physical remains of Utah’s history.   

According to Seth, the best part of his job is helping protect both members of the public and Utah’s natural and cultural resources. As an added benefit, he gets to see a lot of historic mine sites. Seth works with great colleagues in the Division and with other public servants in the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Seth is originally from Western New York. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College and completed his graduate work at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Most recently, he worked as a consultant in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest. 

Five Mile Pass Mine Shaft Closure Project

This project closed a large mine shaft opening in the Five Mile Pass area near Fairfield, Utah. This area is a very popular destination for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding due to the close proximity to the Wasatch Front.

Construction was completed by inmates from Utah Correctional Industries. This partnership provides lower cost labor to the state, while providing inmates opportunities for skill development. 

Upcoming Abandoned Mine Reclamation Projects

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) estimates there are 20,000 abandoned mine openings across the state. Since the program began in 1983, approximately 6,000 of those have been closed.

The AMRP prioritizes project areas for mine closures (often mining districts) using a geographic information system (GIS) model. The model analyzes factors such as the estimated number of mines, proximity to roads and nearby population, and land use to find the areas of highest risk. 

Utah has a rich mining history and provides nearly every mineral needed by our modern society, including copper, silver, and uranium. Park City, Eureka, and Moab were established by miners. When the mines no longer produced, they were often simply abandoned leaving hazardous equipment, open shafts, tunnels, and piles of waste rock. The Utah Mined Land Reclamation Act was passed in 1975, making it illegal for mines to be abandoned. In 1977, the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was created to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts.

SMCRA created the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to pay for the cleanup of mine lands abandoned before 1977. The fund is financed by a tax on coal mining operations. 80 percent of AML fees are distributed to approved state programs to fund reclamation activities. Coal reclamation projects are the first priority, but hard rock (gold, nickel, lead, etc.) reclamation projects can also be eligible.

Once mine openings are identified for closure, several planning and analysis tasks come before any dirt is moved. As federally-funded projects, reclamation work is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as well as other state and local laws. These laws require agencies to consider the effects of the project on cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, and the human environment. This entire process can take up to one year.

Once NEPA is completed, a construction contractor is selected through the Division of Purchasing bid process and construction can be scheduled.

The following is a list of upcoming AMRP projects scheduled for spring and summer this year:

  • Diamond Gulch West in Juab County will close approximately 82 mine openings on private land with backfill and rebar grates.    
  • Dutch Mountain in Tooele County will close approximately 116 mine openings on public land with backfill, masonry walls, and rebar grates.
  • Kenilworth Maintenance III in Carbon County will provide stream restoration by regrading and installing riprap in a series of check structures to reduce flow velocity.         
  • Chief One Subsidence in Juab County will use a concrete cap and approximately 23,000 cubic yards of fill material to close a large subsidence hole.
  • Factory Butte Adit in Wayne County will close one coal mine opening with a block wall and backfill.
  • Hiawatha Phase I in Carbon County will close approximately 15 coal mine portals with block walls and backfill.       
  • Honerine Portal in Tooele County will re-timber a historic mine portal on private land and install a gate to preserve cultural integrity.     
  • Poverty Flat in Sevier County will close two mine openings; one shaft with backfill and one incline with culvert and bat grate.       
  • Prince of Wales Shafts in Salt Lake County will repair three grated shafts on private land in the Wasatch Range. Helicopter support to move supplies will be required.

The AMRP’s mission is to protect the public from dangers of old mines. Mining sites can be intriguing to unsuspecting explorers but can contain dangerous gases, unstable structures and explosives. Stay Out and Stay Alive!

Tips to staying safe:

  • Stay on designated trails and routes
  • Check maps for mines before heading out, but remember that many mines aren’t mapped
  • Never enter an abandoned mine- stay out, stay alive!
  • Familiarize yourself with the landscape and know signs of mining areas (mine dumps, headframes, and old equipment)
  • Respect private property and NO TRESPASSING signs

For more information about the AMRP or for a full list of upcoming projects, visit

2018 Calendars Available

Each year the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) Program creates a calendar highlighting the history of mining in Utah. The calendar is part of the fourth grade education program focusing on abandoned mine safety.

This year’s calendar features historic Spring Canyon, located west of Helper, Utah.  This once bustling area was home to more than 1,000 residents, included a hospital, school, and even a swimming pool. Historic photographs and descriptions provide a glimpse back in time highlighting the highs and lows of living and working in a coal mining town. 

If you’re interested in a free calendar, please send your mailing address to 

Employee Highlight – Fall 2017

Susan White is an environmental scientist, reclamation specialist, biologist and project manager for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP). She has been with the Division since 1990 and has worked in the coal and minerals programs and administration. She also worked two years with the Energy Advisor and Office of Energy Development.

As a project manager, Susan oversees a lengthy checklist of processes that must be done before any actual mine closure work is done. A medium sized project with 30 to 50 openings takes two to three years of surveys and paperwork before construction starts. Once construction begins, work can be completed in a couple of weeks. 

Susan begins a project with a defined area, usually a mining district, and completes an inventory of safety hazards and mine closure options. She then assesses and contacts the resources potentially affected by reclamation including historic, paleontological, bats, raptors, and threatened or endangered species.  Public meetings are held to educate and gather project input. A National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document is produced accounting for the potentially affected resources and what steps will be taken to protect them.  Once these steps are complete, the federal funding partner, usually the Office of Surface Mining or the Bureau of Land Management, issues a decision document that then allows moving to construction.

While these processes are time consuming, it ensures Susan and the AMR program protect the environment and resources, while at the same time protect public safety.

According to Susan, the best part about her job is working with co-workers and partners- to her they are like family. She also enjoys getting out in the field and away from her desk (unless there are biting no-see ums).

Susan has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology with a minor in botany and a Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management from Brigham Young University.

She has over 40 years of experience in the natural resource field. Some of the highlights include a threaten and endangered plant survey in southeastern Utah in 1977; vegetation surveys along the Alaska oil pipeline for two summers; biotic surveys and revegetation work during the first oil shale boom and bust in the 1980s; and construction management for revegetation of oil and gas operations in western Wyoming, interstate pipelines, and interstate powerlines.

Susan has been riding her bike to work for about 25 years and finds it a great way to unwind. She also enjoys hiking and exploring trails along the Wasatch Front and is an avid gardener.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program: Oral History Project

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program is conducting a statewide oral history project to help preserve Utah’s mining history. The goal of the project is to record the stories and voices of those who worked in the mines preserving information for the public, as well as mining historians.

The interviews are conducted by historians with experience in mining history research —most recently Lee Bennett in Monticello, Utah. She locates people to interview, learns about their involvement, and creates interview questions in a way that encourages people to talk about their unique experiences. Interviews to date include uranium, coal and metals mining from 1931 to 2006, in 11 counties from Salt Lake to San Juan.

The interviews are recorded by a professional videographer in order to create a high-quality visual and audio record. The entire interview is then transcribed, resulting in a written transcript that can be used for historical research. The camera footage is edited into a cohesive presentation that includes the best stories and most interesting tidbits, and the resulting video is published on YouTube.

The original recordings and the full transcripts are housed at the Utah State Archives where they are available for public use and research. YouTube videos and full interview transcripts are also available through the Division’s website All materials are available for free public use.

If you know someone who has a story to tell, please contact Project Manager Jan Morse at 801-538-5327 or

Born into a mining family, Bob Turri grew up in the small town of Latuda in Carbon County, UT. Bob discusses his childhood in the town and working at the Liberty Mine.

Employee Highlight – Fall 2016


Jan Morse is the NEPA coordinator for the Abandoned Mines Reclamation (AMR) program. She is responsible for writing environmental assessments required before most federal reclamation projects can begin.
Most abandoned mine reclamation work completed by the Division is funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and subject to NEPA. NEPA assures that proper consideration is given to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.

Jan researches information about cultural resources, sensitive and listed species, recreation, public interest and other resources found in or near the project area. When a resource needs special consideration, she enjoys the challenge of figuring out how to do it without negatively impacting that resource.

In addition to her AMR work, Jan is active in public education where she represents the Division at local events including the Safe Kids Fair, Tintic Silver Jubilee and Park City Miners Day.

“I enjoy watching people’s expressions when they realize that our modern way of life is dependent on minerals,” commented Jan. “I’m proud to be part of the Division that ensures mineral extraction in Utah is conducted in a responsible manner that protects the environment and supports our modern society.”

Jan started as a seasonal inventory crew member in 1995. After several seasons, she was hired on full time and has now been a with the Division for 17 years.

She graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor’s degree in Earth Science from the University of California Santa Cruz.