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Color-changing, flood-blocking mine project has homeowners concerned

SALT LAKE COUNTY — The familiar yellow-brown color of the Kennecott Copper Mine has been a staple on the southwestern edge of the Salt Lake Valley for years — but a color change is happening.

Recently, a gray color has begun to appear near the base of the south side of the mine, where Kennecott Utah Copper dump trucks have been dumping rocks into a big pile.

“This is one of the bigger reclamation projects we’ve taken on over the past couple of years,” said Thiess Lindsay, principal adviser for land quality at Kennecott Utah Copper.

The plan, Lindsay said, is to build four large water catch basins in drainage areas so that when heavy rainstorms come through, the water doesn't flow from the waste piles onto public roads and property.

“The material is all coming from the mine up above and it will be hauled down on the road … and all the truck activity will be up on Kennecott property,” said Chris Kaiser, Kennecott’s environmental manager.

Still, some residents who live closest to the project are concerned. Bill Coon, who lives in High Country Estates, a piece of Salt Lake County west of Herriman, thinks the combination of dust, noise and lights coming from the trucks at nighttime is going to be a three-year nightmare.

“I don’t know how they will do it, but they really need to control the dust during a dump; and how they do that, I have no idea,” Coon said.

Kaiser says Kennecott has a plan.

“We’ll have a water truck and a fugitive dust control plan to make sure the dust is controlled and the offsite neighbors aren’t impacted by that,” he said.

In fact, Kennecott thinks most people won't even notice the project happening until it's done and once they plant trees and vegetation, turning that brown color into green.

“In the long term, I think people will look back and be glad we did this,” Kaiser said.

The project begins next month.