Miners meet in Park City
Reminders of Park City’s silver-mining heyday still mark Old Town, but property managers and real estate agents have replaced burly miners in tony western Summit County.
Still, one day that may change, said Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. speaking Thursday at the Utah Mining Association’s annual convention at The Canyons resort.
"Regions of our state are going to make transitions from old industries to new industries, and you’re going to see a little bit of that here," Huntsman said about the Park City area. "Mining will always play a role in this part of the state, it always has It has a very proud tradition in this part of the state."
As Parkites gather next week on Labor Day to celebrate "Miners Day," money from state coffers will be spent advertising Park City as one of America’s premier skiing destinations.
"We need to put some ideas in people’s minds about what is great about the most remarkable state in America, and we’re doing that for the first time ever," Huntsman said about roughly $17 million earmarked last year by the Legislature to be spent promoting Utah as a travel destination.
"What is important about this part of the state is that those from industry and those from the environmental community and those from local government sit down together around the table and speak a common language," the governor added.
The number of companies interested in relocating to Park City is also increasing, Huntsman said, pointing to the Rossignol Quiksilver group’s commitment to build its corporate headquarters at Kimball Junction.
"I suspect there will be a shared responsibility in terms of economic development," the governor told almost 300 members of the mining industry who gathered at the Grand Summit Hotel. "I suspect travel and tourism will be part of it."
Utah Mining Association President David Litvin agrees mining and tourism can coexist in the state.
"This mining industry in Utah is a very critical industry to the economic activities of the state, had been historically and will be in the future," Litvin said in a telephone interview. "But ore bodies get mined out over time and when they’re mined out the mining industry has to look for a new area."
According to Summit County resident Rob Weyher, a member of the Utah Mining Association’s executive committee, an aggregate mine operated by Utelite near Rockport Reservoir is one of the few active mines left in Summit County.
"This is why this access for exploration on the public lands and federal lands is very important for looking for new mineral deposits," Litvin said. "You have your farming and your grazing and your mining and your recreational uses and your tourism all occurring on the public lands, and in some cases very, very close together."
Mountain States Legal Foundation President William Perry Pendley spoke to conventioneers about how his group works to ensure access for miners to federally owned lands.
Pendley, an attorney, says he sued the U.S. government in 1996 on behalf of Kane and Garfield counties in Southern Utah claiming members of the Clinton administration violated federal law when they created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
"When 1.7 million acres of land was declared off limits (to mineral exploration)," Pendley said.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed the case based on a "technicality," he added.
"I hope on some of these environmental issues we’re going to get some better rulings," lamented Pendley. "I happen to think that the American people are with us on these issues."
Meanwhile, the area’s rich mining tradition likely played a role in the Utah Mining Association scheduling its 91st convention in Park City.
"Park City was originally a mining town," Litvin said. "People very much enjoy being there because of the historic mining roots."
But he says he doesn’t expect Park City to again become the mining hotbed it was in the early 20th century.
"A lot of the early mining in Park City was done when there wasn’t a lot of people living there," Litvin said. "It depends a lot on what is found and whether the land that it’s found on would be acceptable for a mining operation."
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