Magna residents anxious for the results of a new study of Kennecott Utah Copper's decommissioned south tailings impoundment may have to wait until next March for unbiased answers about any remaining seismic risks at the site.

"We want to make sure the study is done right," said Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen. "So, if it takes 10 months, then it takes 10 months."

Jensen and the 19-member Kennecott Tailings Impoundment Study Committee held its first meeting Tuesday.

The meeting was the first step toward the committee choosing an engineering firm that will address some Magna residents' distrust of the mining giant. Some are worried whether the impoundment, which is dry on top but still holding water deep beneath the surface, would liquefy and flow toward homes in a strong earthquake.

Resident and committee member Margaret Uzelac said she'd like to choose a firm with as few ties as possible to Kennecott. She was told by other committee members that, if they hire a local engineering firm, past dealings with the mining giant may be an inevitability.

Uzelac and Jensen agreed Tuesday to co-chair the committee, which includes 12 Magna residents, Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley City; Rep. Carl Duckworth, D-Magna; and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. Experts from the University of Utah and the geotechnical consulting firm IGES are also on the committee.

The reason for the committee forming stems from reports made public earlier this year that suggested Kennecott officials 20 years ago tried to cover up a study that found evidence of a potential for a breach during a magnitude 7.25 quake near the impoundment's southeast corner. News of the alleged cover up angered many residents.

The inactive impoundment is reported by Kennecott to be much safer today. Last month company president Andrew Harding gave Salt Lake County $250,000 to do a new study to put residents' minds at ease. Jensen said the committee, if needed, will approach Kennecott for more funds.

The committee's timeline includes a tour of the impoundment, publishing a request for proposals to do the study and choosing a firm, which could take six months to complete a new study.


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