The Utah Legislature passed a significant piece of legislation, HB453 that establishes new restrictions on mineral extraction from companies operating on the Great Salt Lake to protect the saline body of water and its surrounding wetlands.

While not without controversy and pushback from some of the companies, the measure was approved Thursday after several iterations and now awaits the governor’s signature.

“Over the past few years, the state, local governments, private sector, and everyday citizens have done their part to ensure the Great Salt Lake is around for future generations,” said Rep. Casey Snider, sponsor of the Great Salt Lake Revisions bill. “HB453 is another huge step in the right direction as we work to keep water in the lake. I am grateful for the good faith efforts and voluntary agreements of the mineral extraction companies to work with the state to address the concerns of a shrinking lake.”

Of the 10 companies extracting minerals from the lake, two of them control the vast majority of the water rights. Snider and other lawmakers have been concerned that there has been nothing done to protect “upstream” conservation of water from then being used by the companies. The lake reached an historic low and could decline even more in the light of weather or diversions.

The mineral extraction industry at the lake is big business for Utah, but lawmakers have complained some of the companies have been operating without proper oversight and without paying an appropriate severance.

Lawmaker says Great Salt Lake mining operation is like ‘wild wild West’
Do mineral extraction companies on the Great Salt Lake need more oversight?

According to a release by the state Legislature, for decades, mineral companies have operated under contracts that were negotiated during a time with significantly different ecological conditions on the lake. This measure reevaluates that paradigm and ensures water conserved by Utah farmers, businesses, governments, and residents will not only make it to the Great Salt Lake, but will also remain there.

The release points out that the measure allows mineral companies to continue extracting critical minerals. Revenue from additional taxes will be allocated back to the lake for conservation and management efforts, lawmakers said.

“Protecting and preserving the Great Salt Lake remains one of our top goals,” said Sen. Scott Sandall, co-sponsor of the measure in the release issued by the legislature. “It’s no small task and we cannot do it alone. I applaud all who have done their part to ensure the Great Salt Lake remains a healthy and vital part of Utah – including government, private companies and everyday Utahns.”

“Improving and preserving the sustainability of the Great Salt Lake is a vital goal we all share, and one to which we must all contribute,” said Edward C. Dowling Jr., Compass Minerals’ president and chief executive officer. “We greatly appreciate the collaborative approach of the bill sponsors and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to ensure this legislation enables continued responsible mineral extraction as we all work toward the long-term health of the lake.”

The bill, one of the most significant pieces of legislation related to the lake, passed the legislature unanimously.