Stopping American Sands’ Tar Sands Strip Mine in Utah

Joro-Walker“It’s really unnerving not to know what the makeup of American Sands’ solvent is that will be able to melt pavement. This is planned to be used on a large scale by American Sands and will likely contaminate water and air.”

– Joro Walker, Utah Office Director and Senior Attorney

American Sands Strip Mine to Cover About 1,800 Acres in Book Cliffs

American Sands Energy Corporation, based in Delaware, has acquired rights to strip mine tar sands covering approximately 1,800 private acres near the Carbon County town of Sunnyside, Utah in the Book Cliffs. The company has an extraction and recovery system using mystery solvents that separate oil and other hydrocarbons from sand, dirt and other substances. The company claims their oil-wet sands extraction will have limited environmental impact, but there is no data to prove this and plenty of data to show cause for concern.

Book Cliffs is a Biological, Geological, Hunting and Recreation Treasure

The Book Cliffs region of eastern Utah is a biologically, geologically and recreationally rich area of Utah. It is renowned for big game hunting. Unfortunately the beautiful Book Cliffs area is being targeted for commercial development of oil shale and tar sands, a fossil fuel development process that strip mines the land, destroys wildlife habitat, pollutes our air, leaves a legacy of toxic waste, accelerates climate change and contaminates water.

American Sands Operation is Expansive

American Sands proposes to produce up to 9,000 barrels of bitumen (asphalt) per day from their planned operation. They plan to mine tar sands and haul it to a processing facility at Bruit Point to turn the product into oil. The processing will result in 14 million cubic yards of mine tailing waste and a tailing pond, and the processing facility will cover 109 acres.

Solvent Used in Tar Sands Operation by American Sands that Can Melt Pavement Kept Secret

The solvent American Sands will use to separate the sand and other products from the oil is a powerful industrial degreaser, even if naturally derived. At full strength it could literally melt the parking lot underneath your feet.

The mine is very close to springs that provide pristine waterthat feeds into Range Creek. The springs and Range Creek are used by wildlife, as well as a number cabins and ranches that are in Range Creek canyon. Range Creek then feeds directly into the Green River, which then flows into the Colorado.There is concern that the oil-stripping solvent the company refuses to disclose will pollute the springs and that the mining process could dry up the springs. Experts also report American Sands mining likely will drain the aquifer that feeds Range Creek – a high tributary to the Green and Colorado rivers.

Western Resource Advocates Leading Legal Challenge To Protect Our Water, Lands and Wildlife

Western Resource Advocates is leading the legal challenge for the state of Utah to issue a water quality permit, given the likelihood of the toxic degreaser contaminating water. We are representing Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Living Rivers, the Grand Canyon Trust and Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Western Resource Advocates plans to lead legal challenges on all environmental permits the company applies for to ensure stringent review for the protection of the environment and public health.
These dirty fuels should remain in the ground, and clean renewable energy should be the priority in Utah and throughout the West. For more on our multiple efforts to stop oil shale and tar sands development, click here.

Other Groups Working on this Project

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Living Rivers

Grand Canyon Trust 

Great Old Broads for Wilderness


Project Staff

Rob Dubuc

Rob Dubuc

Staff Attorney, Utah Office

Joro Walker

General Counsel