MAGNA — The reason Cheri Fuller came to a meeting with Kennecott Utah Copper officials Thursday night wasn't that she was angry a pond full of tailings from the nearby copper mine was considered unsafe and had the potential to break in the case of an earthquake.

She, like many other residents who attended the packed meeting, was just bewildered that in 40 years of living in the westernmost community in Salt Lake County, she'd never been told of the threat.

"I'm disappointed that (Kennecott) didn't inform the people," Fuller said. "There's always been a danger out there — I'm just sitting here trying to understand why I didn't think of it before."

Seven Kennecott officials attended the special meeting — including Kennecott Utah Copper chief executive officer Andrew Harding, who fielded a majority of the questions — armed with posters, graphs and even samples of tailing slurry from the pond in an attempt to explain what the company has done to reduce risk to residents who live in Magna.

If a 7.25 earthquake were to hit the area today, the pond's sludge, composed of rejected ore from Kennecott's copper mine, wouldn't make it further than State Route 201, Harding said.

By 2019, once an additional 20 feet of water is removed from the pond's sludge, the tailings won't move anywhere in an equivalent earthquake, he said. The company is so certain of that promise that Harding pledged to hire an independent, third party to inspect the pond and confirm if it's as safe as they say.

If the third party finds that the pond is not as safe as the company says, then Kennecott is willing to fix the problem and make up the difference in property values that will likely crash as a result, Harding said.

"People may decide that they don't trust Kennecott," Harding said. "But you don't have to take my word for it, there will be a third party person to review (the tailings pond). ... If we get an answer different to what I know (about the pond's safety) and the houses will be affected, whatever the property change is ... then I'll make it up."

Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen, who attended the meeting, said the county could serve as a facilitator for the third-party study. Jensen said the county could form a committee with different stakeholders in Magna, then commission the study for Kennecott at Kennecott's expense.

"I'll make sure that it's a standing item on the (Salt Lake County Council) agenda," Jensen said.

Harding also offered to give tours of the tailings pond to residents and make the company's technical documents on the pond available for public viewing.

More than 100 residents came to the meeting, and while some threatened a class-action lawsuit against Kennecott, others applauded the company's efforts in their community. There were mixed reactions for and against the copper giant throughout Kennecott's presentation.

"I believe there is a major credibility gap and we need to help close that gap," said Rod Dansie, a property owner in Magna. "We believe there has not been transparency on the environmental things being done in Magna and this county. We love Kennecott, they've been a good company, but we need a little more consideration."


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