Thursday, July 24, 2014

21 Protesters Arrested While Attempting to Block the First Tar Sands Mine in America

An aerial view of a mining site for Canadian tar sands in Alberta, Canada. (Credit: Josh Burstein/nextgen climate action) Click to enlarge.
Twenty-one activists in Utah were arrested Monday after they chained themselves to fences and equipment at a site planned to become the first to mine tar sands in the United States.

The activists, who were released on bail after spending Monday night in jail, are facing possible charges of trespassing, conspiracy to escape, and interfering with arrest, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.  The 21 arrested were part of a group of about 80 protesters with the Utah Tar Sands Resistance group, who set up a blockade at the PR Spring mine site.

Calgary, Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands, the company that plans to mine for tar sands at the Utah site, has been cutting down trees and clearing vegetation from the site to get it ready for mining.  So far, though, no tar sands oil has been extracted.  The protesters, who erected banners with messages like “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance,” wanted to highlight the environmental damage tar sands mining will impose on the area.

“These projects do nothing but devastate the land and pollute the water and air,” Tar Sands Resistance spokeswoman Jessica Lee said.

Tar Sands Resistance has been working since 2012 to stop plans for tar sands mining in Utah, organizing protests and announcing in late May that they would be holding a “permanent protest vigil” at the mine site.  About 20 protesters set up a vigil near the site soon after U.S. Tar Sands announced in mid-May that it had enough funding to begin mine operations, and the stakeout has remained ever since, with additional protests like the one on Monday also taking place at the site.

Tar sands has been labeled the “dirtiest type of liquid fuel,” one whose extraction creates toxic holding ponds that have proven deadly to birds and requires four barrels of water to make each barrel of oil, a high demand that’s particularly concerning in dry Utah.  Tar sands extraction could also put groundwater at risk — one University of Utah scientist warned in 2012 that the same tailings ponds that have killed birds in Alberta, Canada could also leech toxic chemicals into groundwater.

21 Protesters Arrested While Attempting to Block the First Tar Sands Mine in America

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