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Developer Abandons Plan to Mine Fracking Sand Near Kanab

A group of Kanab citizens believed a planned fracking sand mine in the sandstone hills near the town would destroy the local environment. (spiritofamerica/AdobeStock)
A group of Kanab citizens believed a planned fracking sand mine in the sandstone hills near the town would destroy the local environment. (spiritofamerica/AdobeStock)
January 23, 2020

KANAB, Utah -- A group of activists in the southern Utah town of Kanab have convinced a developer to abandon its plans to mine sand for oil and gas fracking operations.

The group of ranchers, business owners, environmentalists and long-time residents fought a project by Southern Red Sands to mine and wash 700,000 tons of sand on Bureau of Land Management land.

The group feared that the operation would damage the local environment, take so much water that it would deplete local supplies, and create enormous amounts of dust and noise.

Dean Baker, an organizer with Keep Kanab Unspoiled, says the group fought the plan at every turn.

"We were contesting every step along the way of the sale of water, the county's conditional-use permit allowing them to put in the fracks and mine there," he states. "The Bureau of Land Management had to expand a road because it goes through Bureau of Land Management land."

Baker says last week, the developer abandoned its plans, saying the project was no longer feasible. It sold the rights to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a local animal rescue group.

Baker says the town depends heavily on tourism to keep the local economy running.

"Kanab's business is tourism," he stresses. "That's what we have. There's almost nothing else here.

"And, you know, even when you look to jobs like hospitals, schools, they're here because your people are supporting the tourism industry. That would make this town certainly a much, much less attractive place if you had trucks going down the main street."

Baker surmises that the developers determined that, with all the opposition to the sand mine, it would be hard for the operation to make money.

"The bottom line was there was no way they had a profitable operation there," he states. "Obviously, we were trying to stop it because we thought of the damage it would do to the community.

"But at the end of the day, I mean, they're there in business to make a profit. And if they don't have a profitable operation, there's no point in them moving forward with it."

Baker says his group turned out up to 300 people at city and county meetings when permits for the project were up for consideration.

Kanab is near the Arizona border, halfway between Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT