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Amy Choate-Nielsen: In shadow of one of world's largest mines, Magna fights for its future

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  • Adoptamine SANDY, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 5:49 a.m.

    Once again, mining is made out to be the bad guy in this phony David versus Goliath tale of a poor little town fighting for its future. Magna would not BE a town without the Bingham Mine it supports. Arguing that the mine needs to stop expanding, or even shut down, is tantamount to people moving next to airports and then complaining about airport noise. I can't also help but compare this article to the one on Eureka, a town fighting for its future against a government bureaucracy that wants to kill the town to save it.

    Some would have us ban mining altogether, then we can all freeze in the dark. They have their priorities mixed up, because without mining we would be a poorer and dependent nation. This three part series should have been a single editorial where unsupported opinion and wild conjecture won't get confused for straight, serious news reporting.

    Our economy is teetering on an abyss that will make the Bingham Pit pale in comparison; if we don't allow and encourage mineral exploration and extraction in UT and the USA, we will surely freeze in the dark. I support the Cornerstone Project.

  • mssr DUGWAY, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 6:27 a.m.

    What does this author have against mining? Yesterday it was about Eureka with an article filled with misinformation and now today about KCC. If it can't be grown, it must be mined!

  • juni4ling Somewhere in Colorado, CO
    Aug. 23, 2011 6:56 a.m.

    When I was growing up, and had friends who lived in Magna...

    When I drank the water in Magna, it tasted off and smelled like sewer water.

  • hud NA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 7:01 a.m.

    Nevermind that this mine provides thousands of families with jobs. If the mine didn't exist thousands of families would have a lot lower quality of life.
    The reason this country is having such hard economic times is because the government and many misinformed/uneducated people are making it nearly impossible for productive people and companies to exist through excessive regulation.

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:13 a.m.

    Its always a challenging dilemma. I know if it were me, I would be fighting against the evil "what-ever". But I also know what it means to struggle with employment, or the lack there of. This country is suffering in many ways, economically to be sure - we need to really give careful consideration before closing down yet another industry.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:15 a.m.

    Re: juni4ling | 6:56 a.m. Aug. 23, 2011
    "When I drank the water in Magna, it tasted off and smelled like sewer water"

    The taste and smell of your drinking water had nothing to do with the operation of the Kennecott Copper Mine. It almost sounds like your domestic water system was cross connected with the sewer line. I guess that's where Crest toothpaste comes in handy.

  • Cindy W Magna, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:23 a.m.

    It's curious that the author of the article does not quote anyone from the Magna Town Council. Kennicot and the Town Council had NUMEROUS discussions on the issues raised. Did Mr. Norcross or Ms. Haggart attend any of them? If so why is this information not included in the article? This article raises more questions than it answers.

    Oh and as a Magna resident (living just off of the ATK property) I can tell you that the Magna Water Company has made great strides in improving the drinkability of our water. I compared our last annual particulates study to the last one I got (from 4 years ago) in my old hometown in MN and the water here in Magna was cleaner than the water in MN. But that goes against the Valley lifers image of Magna and we can't challenge that now can we?

  • JBQ Saint Louis, MO
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:33 a.m.

    This typifies the difference between American and Chinese economic development. In China, this would not be an issue and decided by the central government. In America in most cases, the environmental issue is a front for socialistic control of industry. Phony clean-up issues are leading to more and more regulation in the lead-up to eventual takeover by the government. Just this week, there was an issue in Colorado in which two types of flowers on the endangered species list were keeping oil companies from drilling in certain areas. The argument then went to whether you have two species and not two types of flowers of the same species. The environmentalists were on one side and the oil companies on the other. You have two distinct views of the environment. One is a capitalist survival of the fittest mentality and the other is tending toward communism. There must be a middle of the road answer where companies have compassion for the environment and their workers. Multi-national companies have put a crimp in that compassion. In fact, China has a great deal of money and influence in most of them.

  • reader1234 South Jordan, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:35 a.m.

    True Magna water sinks or is stank a few years ago, but that is not because of the mine. Magna gets its water from other cities east of it. Water comes down from the wasatch mountains and ski resorts and travels west across the valley. By the time it gets to Magna it has been filtered through a bunch of different cities and it stinks. The mine has nothing to do with it.

  • Lilljemalm Gilbert, AZ
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:48 a.m.

    Could neighborhoods that are adversly affected by the mine operations be bought up by Kennicot and torn down, creating a buffer between KC and the town?

  • proudamerican Cedar Hills, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 8:59 a.m.

    Complaining about the tailings pile in Magna is akin to when Novell and other companies purchased inexpensive land in East Bay, Provo, for their corporate offices, and then complained that the Kuhni's rendering plant that had been there for decades smelled bad, and had to be shut down.

    Magna exists in large part because of Kennecott, and is affordable because it is right next to Kennecott. Even today, Kennecott and its suppliers continue to provide a good livelihood for many families in Magna and surrounding communities. Rio Tinto does an excellent job of protecting the environment and remediating the land that it disturbs, but mining is an inherently messy business...it is unrealistic to expect Rio Tinto to turn the Magna foothills into verdant forests and fields of wildflowers with cool brooks meandering through lush meadows.

    And for those who are truly concerned about the environmental impacts of a copper mine, any guesses as to where the copper in the electric motors of your Prius or in the windmills at Point of the Mountain comes from?

  • Ridgely Magna, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:04 a.m.

    These comments and parts of this article tap into a bigger issue. Magna has a "perception" problem as a toxic wasteland, a social joke, and a governmental Bermuda Triangle.

    The history of Magna is and always will be mining and extraction. Most of the inter-generational families here are descendants of miners, so the mining process is not the problem.

    Its seems insensitive when a multi-national conglomerate like Rio Tinto uses its largess to sponsor development in Sandy, or builds an up-scale master community like Day Break in South Jordan (ironically touting its green environmental aspects, safety, and sense of community), while Magna which has historically borne the bulk of Kennecotts negative impacts, only gets a few Russian Olive trees, bigger tailings ponds, and declining property values.

  • Peter Coyotl West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:12 a.m.

    Great series.

    Often the interest of corporations (profit) goes against the interest of the nearby residents. Without a doubt, we need businesses to succeed so they can provide jobs for the residents of our community. We also need businesses to be responsible and proactive in mitigating the impact posed to our communities from any of their dangerous waste. Protecting the communities where they do business should always be included as a necessary cost of doing business, not an expense that should be avoided.

    Reporting on the realities on the environmental consequences of having such a giant mining operation next to a growing major urban area is not anti-mining as some defensive posters suggest. Rather than become divisive, we should all share in the concern about businesses enacting safeguards to minimize the impact they have on the air we breath, the soil we plant on, and the water we drink. We are all impacted by it, no matter where one stands on the issue. It is not anti-mining to speak out about protecting the quality of our life and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

  • SP Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:21 a.m.

    Great reporting, Des News. Thanks for taking on big issues like this.

  • byronbca Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:32 a.m.

    I agree with many posters that Kennocott provides a lot to the community, but because of its size and proximity to not only Magna but the rest of SL county they need to do a better job environmentally.

    The fact is if the community doesn't get involved stronger regulations will never get passed, and stronger regulations need to be passed. The mining industry has a long and storied history of being irresponsible and careless and it's up to the local communities to force legislation that makes the mine safer for all of SL county residents.

    Kennocott shouldn't get a free pass because they create a lot of jobs and are worth billions of dollars.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:54 a.m.

    Re: byronbca | 9:32 a.m. Aug. 23, 2011
    "they need to do a better job environmentally"

    I can give you examples of the hundreds of millions of dollars they've invested in making their operations more environmentally friendly. Could you give us some examples of what they 'need' to better?

    I'd rather live in Magna than the showcase of liberal thinking ..... Detroit.

  • Dustyredcliffs Saint George, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:59 a.m.

    This Company Is Not American Owned.
    Therefore they can do what ever they want.
    They will get a free ride Tax wise,there can hire seasonal workers and not have to pay Over Time or benifits.
    THIS IS A RIGHT TO WORK STATE.

  • Silly Rabbit Small Town, USA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 10:02 a.m.

    Ridgely well said, you covered everything I wanted to say..........

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 10:03 a.m.

    The environmentalists would put this nation out of business if they could.

    A fine example, there are billions of barrels of oil waiting to be tapped up in Alaska, but we can't drill for it because it would "damage the environment".

    What the environmentalists have failed to realize is that if this nation goes belly up because we have no jobs and must pay to import everything from nations who care less about their environment *(and we're really close to that point now)* there isn't going to be any entity around to protect said environment at all.

    Protect places that are worth protecting, sure, but development and growth of industries obtaining natural resources MUST continue in order for this country to have a future.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 23, 2011 10:30 a.m.

    Re: Dustyredcliffs | 9:59 a.m. Aug. 23, 2011

    Kennecott Copper has agreements with four unions: The United Steelworkers of America, International Union of Operating Engineers, International Association of Machinists and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Those workers get the appropriate overtime wages and benefits.

    They pay taxes just like everybody else, and prior to it's demise they paid the hated police protection fee.

    Can you site the sources for the claims you are making?

  • Last Stand Farmington, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 10:40 a.m.

    "don't drink that water in Magna. You'll be sorry. We've got bottled water and it's costing us a fortune"

    I have bottled water in my house. Have for 10 years. I buy it in the reusable 5 gallon bottles. Costs me less than $10 per month for my family of 5. How much do you want to bet that this Magna resident spends 10 times that amount on McDonalds every month?

  • byronbca Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 10:50 a.m.

    Re rifleman:

    It's estimated that Kennocott is responsible for up to 25% of SL county's emissions, that's way too high and they can and should do better than that. It's been documented and menioned in this article that their tailings ponds are seismically unstable. If those ponds were to fail in a major earthquake that could be catastrophic to Salt Lake and kill hundreds of people, they need to fix that.

    There are many more things that Kennocott could do better and they need to start doing them. I'm not suggesting that they shut down, I just want them to be more responsible for their actions and be a better neighbor. They have done a lot yes, but because they are located right next to a major metropolitan area they need to have higher standards they need to do more.

  • kiaoraguy Provo, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 11:34 a.m.

    I actually owe my life to Kennecott- one of my parents grew up in McGill Nevada, a true company town if there ever was one. That mine closed down, decimating the economy, which still has not recovered. We live in the West, and mining is integral to it's history and who we are. The mines usually were here first, and just like the Kuhni situation, moving into an area with an already existing facility and then complaining about that facility is just plain bad manners, to be nice. It's like living in Vegas and wanting to get rid of the casinos because they offend you.

  • sbn70 MAGNA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 12:25 p.m.

    This is not an anti-mining or even an anti-Kenecott article. There is nothing said about shutting anything down or jobs going away. This is about being responsible and taking care of the community you rely on to do business in. This is about not making already not so good things worse. There are other options. Many mines ship their tailings to safe locations away from populations. Many use rail systems. Will it cost more money? Maybe, but isn't the health and safety of the community worth it?
    As far as the comment about going to Magna council meetings........isn't it just a plain conflict of interest that the operating costs of the council or councils are paid for by Kenecott?

  • sbn70 MAGNA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 12:36 p.m.

    Many residents in Magna are relatively new. Most of these people had no clue what they were living next to, in regards to the tailings pond. They just think its something that belonged there narurally. No idea what is held inside and the possible dangers. They need to know the risks and then they can decide whats okay with them. Good article, very informative and highly accurate. Nice Job Amy!

  • dlw7 LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 1:02 p.m.

    How long has Kennecott been there mining copper? Over 100 years. If you buy a house in Magna, you have to be aware that it is a copper mine, will be a copper mine as long as it is productive and there are certain risks living that close to any kind of mining operation. It is one of those "Let the Buyer Beware" things.

  • Gary Federal Way, WA
    Aug. 23, 2011 1:08 p.m.

    The big thing I felt was missing in the article was where are the comments from the others that live in the city of Magna. Why focus on just this one family that's complaining? Where are the others with their statements? And I was thinking, if these families just don't like it, why are they living there in the first place knowing the mine is next door? Regulations are necessary for economy/environmental balance and I think in this case, Kennecott has gone and done more as they can for the community to doing the right thing as best as possible and economically possible. Like some say, if some environmentalists had their way, our cities would all be decimated economy wise. And for what purpose accomplished? The Zero-Defects facade has damaged many good companies and continues to do so. Accept the balances and if you can't, don't move in that area. Pretty good article, but it leaves a lot of things out that would have answered questions I had such as what are others saying?

  • sbn70 MAGNA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 1:18 p.m.

    The mine is actually not in Magna.....and relatively, not even close. Its the tailings pond that is in Magna. Yes, buyer beware. Pretty sure though that home builders aren't going to tell potential buyers...'you are right next to a tailings pond that could breach and drowned you in tailings or leak into the ground water...oh yeah you could possibly be breathing tailings dust too.' People really just dont know....and for the record, there were people and homes in Magna BEFORE the tailings pond as it exists today.

  • Reasonable Person Layton, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 1:50 p.m.

    Many homes were sold in Magna, and that big "mountain" was not divulged to be tailings.

    It was through the hard work of activists that Kenndcott started ameliorating the tailings dust that blew through Magna and other parts of the valley.

    WHY is it too much, to ask that the company behind "green building" Daybreak treat Magna residents with equal respect?

  • magmom MAGNA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 1:53 p.m.

    I have lived in Magna since 1996.In fact I live near 8800 W and 3500 S, which is pretty close to Kennecotts gates and smoke stacks.I don't know what Mr. Norcross and Ms. Haggart are going on about, but I do not feel threatened in anyway by Kennecott or it's mining processes. I have seen great improvements out here since we have lived here and I have seen Kennecott's dedication to taking care of the environment. The water tastes fine and the air smells and looks great. As a decendent of miners and the Bingham's, I am proud to live in a mining community. I don't know why people can't enjoy what makes this communnity great.

  • sbn70 MAGNA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 2:46 p.m.

    Magmom.........ask someone what it was like in 1986....then guarantee me, we have to live through that again.Convince me how piling more tailings on the Magna corner of the tailings pond, which to this day is not considered seismically safe, a good idea??

  • LivinLarge Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 3:15 p.m.

    Solution? Move!

  • Bomar Roberts, ID
    Aug. 23, 2011 3:46 p.m.

    I have only one question for Mr Norcross. Why don't you move? Is there a law that prevents him from moving? We already have too many naysayers who scream about the harvesting of natural resources. We can't mine here or there or we can't drill for oil anywhere for fear of what this process will do to our environment. These are the same people that complain about the price of gas and other things that need these resources to make our lives better and more convenient.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 23, 2011 3:49 p.m.

    Re: sbn70 | 12:36 p.m. Aug. 23, 2011
    "Many residents in Magna are relatively new."

    Reminds me of the people that move next to an existing airport and then complain about the noise.

  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 5:32 p.m.

    Some of the above posters would have been wonderful slaves and serfs.
    Gladly giving their fist born or whatever the King asked of them because after
    all they wouldn't have a job without their Lords grace.

    Asking someone to be responsible for the harm they do is NOT limited to individuals and citizens but your gloried Corporations too.

  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 5:35 p.m.

    The most toxic lake in the world
    Its not really a lake, its more like an artificial lake. In fact, its the Berkeley Pit, a former open pit copper mine located in Butte, Montana, USA. It is filled to a depth of about 900 feet (270 m) with water that is heavily acidic. The pit is laden with heavy metals and dangerous chemicals, including arsenic, cadmium, zinc, and sulfuric acid. When the pit was closed, the water pumps at the bottom were removed, and groundwater from the surrounding aquifers began to slowly fill the pit. Since the pit closure in 1982, the level has risen to within 150 feet of the natural groundwater level.
    In 1995, a large flock of migrating snow geese landed in the Berkeley Pit water and died, with 342 carcasses recovered.

    Kennecotts way bigger...

    Forbes: America's 10 Most Toxic Cities

    9. Salt Lake City, Utah
    Number of unhealthy air quality days (2009): 15
    Pounds of on-site toxic releases reported: 130.4 million
    EWG top water concern: Total haloacetic acids

    We can do better, with Mike Lee and Energy Solutions we should be able to be the MOST Toxic.

  • Cindy W Magna, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 7:44 p.m.

    Lilljemalm - there is a buffer between the town proper and the tailings pond. It's called Highway 201. While the article did not state where Ms. Haggart lived, Mr. Norcross lives quite away out of the town proper. The vast majority of the town proper is south of the tailings pond (and with the exception of old downtown mostly up hill as well) and Mr. Norcross' property is north and east of the pond.

  • Go Big Blue!!! Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:03 p.m.

    I always wonder about complaints from people that chose to live by something like an airport, mine, refinery and then complain about said airport, mine refinery etc.

  • Chem0621 TAYLORSVILLE, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:09 p.m.

    First of all, Magna's drinking water is not an issue, it's perfectly fine. Everyone complains about it because it tends to be more "thick" in other words, hard water due to higher amounts of calcium. The issue relating to Kennecott is having the tailings leach into well water, which locals use for watering gardens, plants, etc. The tailings pond contains high levels of lead, arsenic, selenium and other inorganic compounds which are hazardous at high levels and should not be ingested.

    This article is not anti-Kennecott. It is known that they do a lot for the community. One of the issues is, they are looking to start using the tailings pond closest to Magna again. I have personally been told by them that it is seismically unstable and that is why they have been working on its restoration, but now that copper prices are back up and they need that space they are just that easily going to reopen it? They know it is an issue and will cover miles of land with tailings if it were to fail. By the way, a large fault line runs right through that area.

  • TheRealBigDaddy MAGNA, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    "...worries about the air she breathes and the water she refuses to drink. She sees pieces of ash on the ground when the stacks are running, and once, last summer, she could hardly breathe from the smoke inside her home."

    I also live in the same exact neighborhood, and I remember the one single day last summer where the stacks released smoke and steam for all of seven minutes. It was gone in ten. On the ground it was barely visible or noticeable.

    As for the pieces of ash on the ground, that isn't from the stacks. That is from the backyard fires we here in Magna lite all summer long.

    As for the water? The water in Magna is some of the cleanest in the country due to a new processing facility.

  • Lee B Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 23, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    If the tailing ponds are just crushed rock left over from the mining process why not use them for road bed, railroad bed, mixed in foundations or cement, put back in the mine once it's played out, fill for abandoned mines, or find another beneficial use for them. I'm not an engineer, but it seems one could find some use for them that you could make a profit on.

  • Cindy W Magna, UT
    Aug. 26, 2011 1:23 p.m.

    "As far as the comment about going to Magna council meetings........isn't it just a plain conflict of interest that the operating costs of the council or councils are paid for by Kenecott? "

    Are you talking about the Town Council or the Community Council? The elected by the people Town council is funded by the county, not by Kennicott. The unelected Community Council on the other hand, is funded by Kennicott. Which is why is specifically asked if either had gone to the Town Council meetings. The members of the Town Council are more representative of the residents of Magna and more responsive to the residents of Magna than the unelected Community Council will ever be.

  • Cindy W Magna, UT
    Aug. 26, 2011 1:28 p.m.

    "Many homes were sold in Magna, and that big "mountain" was not divulged to be tailings. "

    Actually I am one of the newer residents and it was indeed disclosed by my real estate agent.

    "Reminds me of the people that move next to an existing airport and then complain about the noise. "

    The article says that both residents are long time residents of Magna - not with new residents.....

    Cindy

  • FormerSJboy SAN DIEGO, CA
    Aug. 31, 2011 11:32 a.m.

    Boy, some of you have really drank the Kennocott Coolade. I'm not expecting those who work for KCC to defend your livelyhood due to your employer's mafeasence, but KCC created some real health/toxic/enviro rammifications for many familes in this area. I no longer live in Utah but I rememebr our basment flooding and our drinking water being contaminated with arsenic, lead, chemical, and sulfate ladden leachwater from their evap ponds under Day Break (you know, the place where they only "cleaned up" under the cover of night and sealed it up tight during the day?). We walked through that stuff in our own home and took showers not knowing the potential harm we were exposed to. The "mine and dump now then deal with consequences later" has to be addressed. Enviromentalists want companies to bare the true costs invovled with producing a product that otherwise would be and have been placed on innocent people.