Mesa Mining’s Foster Wilson at mine site, above, and potash miners at the current Intrepid Potash works in Wendover
The president of a mining company seeking to build an $85 million potash mine 20 miles north of Wendover is searching for allies in is effort to reverse a Bureau of Land Management decision to kill the plan.
“We going to everyone we can think of. We are reaching out to Native Americans, Wendover City officials, pioneer groups and unions.” said Foster Williams President and CEO of Mesa Mining. “Hopefully the BLM will reconsider.”
Last month under heavy pressure from a wagon train historical group rejected a prospecting permit application for a Canadian company that wants to build an $85 million potash extraction plant near Pilot Mountain 15 miles north of Wendover.
Opposition to the project which would have created at least 40 very long term high paying jobs was spearheaded by the Oregon-California Trails Association which began a letter campaign against the proposed mine because of its proximity to the Hastings Cutoff, the “shortcut” taken by the infamous Donner Party as well as four other wagon trains in the mid 1800’s.
The Oregon-California Trails Association is the nation’s largest and most influential organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of overland emigrant trails and the emigrant experience.
“Mesa claims to have Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, along with Congressman Rob Bishop, leaning on the Bureau of Land Management to authorize the project to “reduce dependence on foreign producers,” “provide economic development,” and jobs, jobs, jobs!” Wrote OCTA Utah member Will Bagley, on the Association’s website this June. “Genesis tells the ancient tale of how Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew. For thousands of years, this “mess of pottage” has represented something worthless that is foolishly traded for an immensely more valuable birthright.
For many of us, the playa at Pilot Peak is a national treasure, what the Park Service calls a place that is “fragile, sensitive, rare, irreplaceable, exemplary, unique, and vulnerable to adverse change.” The American past has an almost magical ability to disappear, but beneath the looming majesty of Pilot Peak, silent stretches of the Hastings Cutoff endure. The singular landscape of the Pilot Peak Playa should be a National Monument, not a strip mine.”
“I am all for preserving history,” said Foster Williams. “And I think this country has done a pretty good job. The main trail is marked over 2,000 miles across six states. Locally there is an Oregon Trail Interactive Center in Elko. But the Hastings cutoff was used by just four trains and is only note worthy because of the Donner Party.”
The Donner Party’s claim to infamy came several weeks after they took the Hasting Cutoff when against advice from experts attempted to cross California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains in late fall, got stuck in an early snow storm and resorted to cannibalism to survive the winter.
In the year leading up to the BLM’s decision, Foster said, the OCTA refused any kind of compromise with the proposed mine.
“They told us to go mine elsewhere, the only problem is none of their suggestions had potash.” Wilson said.
In their effort to kill the project the OCTA enlisted the aid of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The opposition dovetailed nicely with recent efforts to set aside millions of acres of Utah lands as wilderness and therefore untouchable to any industry.
“Funny if the Sierra Club existed 175 years ago it would have protested the pioneers,” Wilson said. “ I think you could make a good case that the OCTA has been hijacked by radical environmentalist groups and not the other way around.”