Tar sands mine in Utah wilderness is set to open, renews Western debate over preservation

EnergyAssociated Press

On a remote Utah ridge, a Canadian company is about to embark on something never before done commercially in the United States — digging sticky, black, tar-soaked sand from the ground and extracting the petroleum.

The impending opening of the nation's first tar sands mine has become another front in the battle across the West between preservationists and the energy industry.

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U.S. Oil Sands has invested nearly $100 million over the last decade to acquire rights to about 50 square miles, obtain permits and develop what it says is new, non-toxic method of separating out the oil with the use of an orange-peel extract similar to what's in household soaps.

The company says it will leave the land only minimally harmed, but environmentalists oppose the project.