Let us state this clearly: Parleys Canyon, the entrance to the beautiful Salt Lake Valley, should not be home to a mine.

No one should doubt the need for rock quarries in order to keep up with the steady population growth along the Wasatch Front. The rock aggregate products that come from such quarries are required for home construction, sidewalks, highways and many other things that people rely on in order to live and prosper.

But it should be equally obvious that the siting of these quarries must be delicately balanced against the health, safety and environmental needs of nearby residents.

For the second year in a row, Utah lawmakers are considering bills that would tip that balance dangerously toward mining interests. Both SB172, sponsored by Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, and HB502, sponsored by Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, would place onerous restrictions on local governments’ ability to control or deny these operations. It is not good policy.

To consider such bills during the state’s yearly 45-day legislative session is far too rushed. Local governments ought to be able to regulate operations that would affect the health and safety of nearby residents.

SB172 would make it much harder for cities and counties to challenge someone with a vested mining right who wishes to start new operations or expand existing ones. Mining rights would take precedence over other rights. Conditions could be required only in the face of “clear and convincing evidence in the record” that the operation would endanger health, safety, and welfare.

HB502 would do much the same, in addition to requiring local governments to allow mining operations virtually anywhere, so long as these are at least 1,000 feet from the nearest residence and 500 feet from an interstate highway or railroad line.

Each bill is long and complicated. Each is formally opposed by Salt Lake County and several municipalities, as well as the Utah Association of Counties and, at least so far with SB172, the League of Cities and Towns.

If these bills become law, Salt Lake County would be unable to stop two mining projects near the entrance to the Salt Lake Valley off I-80 in Parleys Canyon. One is about 20 acres, and the other would be about 634 acres.

At the moment, only the 20-acre site is in play. Salt Lake County passed an ordinance two years ago banning mining and mineral extraction in forestry and recreation zones, including Parleys Canyon. The owner of the 20-acre Parleys Canyon property, Tree Farm, had filed a vested mineral right on the land before the county passed its ordinance and has since sued the county.

Draper City is also in litigation over the expansion of an excavation site at Point of the Mountain.

Hinkins, the sponsor of SB172, told us his main interest in sponsoring the bill is to allow the mining of copper, lithium and other minerals in his own rural district. 

That district includes Lisbon Valley in San Juan County, where local residents fear that the expansion of a copper mine could endanger drinking water.

Each of these exemplifies the difficulties involved with mineral and critical infrastructure extraction in a growing state.

The Parleys Canyon operation, however, ought to raise obvious concerns about safety and pollution. The quarry would send large trucks onto the interstate at regular intervals. Water would be used to tamp down dust, but much dust is still likely to find its way to the interstate regardless, making driving difficult and unpleasant.

A year ago, Fraser Bullock, chief executive officer of Utah’s latest bid to host another Winter Olympics, worried the quarry would hurt the effort to win that bid. Project out 10 years, what would mining operations along the Wasatch Front yield in pollution?

Lawmakers should consider whether the many people who would drive to the state for those games should view a dusty mining operation at the entrance to Salt Lake Valley — arguably among the most scenic entryways to a major city in the United States.

We are not anti-mining. Rock aggregate extraction is needed, as will be mineral mining in the future. But these bills are tilting the wrong way and Parleys Canyon should not be home to a mine.