Locals Outraged Over Potential Gravel Mine Near Casper Mountain

Many Casper citizens are outraged over a potential gravel mine near Casper Mountain. They say property values will plummet and health issues will arise from blowing dust -- not to mention an increase in noise, pollution and impacts to wildlife and rivers.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

February 28, 20245 min read

Land set aside for non-motorized use is being considered for a gravel mining operation at the base of Casper Mountain. Residents adjacent to the mine are raising opposition.
Land set aside for non-motorized use is being considered for a gravel mining operation at the base of Casper Mountain. Residents adjacent to the mine are raising opposition. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Exploration for a potential gravel pit on state land at the base of Casper Mountain has some locals digging in to oppose using the area to mine gravel.

Prism Logistics Manager Kyle True said his company has been looking around Casper for a place to mine gravel and got an exploration permit to evaluate land in the State School section of state-owned property at the head of Squaw Creek in Natrona County.

“Right now, in working with the DEQ, we got permits and went up and did testing to determine the size of the resource that is on the state land in that area,” he said about working with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. “And we were testing in four different sections and don’t have all of our results yet.

“It does look encouraging, I think there is a viable resource up there, but it’s not all done yet.”

True said he understands there is concern about Section 36 of the parcel, which is a nonmotorized vehicles walking area. He said the company also did testing in Sections 35 and 34 outside of the walking area.

“Obviously, we will be assessing those and taking those into account,” he said.

A Lot Of Concern

Despite True’s assurances, members of the Casper Mountain Landowners Association say they have a laundry list of concerns about the gravel pit plan.

Among them is nationally known Casper artist and sculptor Chris Navarro, who lives near the proposed area and is a member of the association.

He said the Squaw Creek school section has an antelope herd, prairie dog town and is a beautiful place to walk and get out into nature. It’s a great place for the public to get outdoors and not appropriate to turn into a gravel mine, he said.

“It’s kind of like a wildlife sanctuary,” he said. “It’s been that way since I’ve been there.”

Navarro said he and other residents are concerned about destroying the scenic beauty of the area, as well as the dust, and other issues that go with gravel mining operations.

Navarro said he had a nice conversation with True about the company’s intentions, but asked him how he would like it if someone built a gravel pit behind his house.

“He wouldn’t answer the question,” Navarro said.

Navarro said he has been on the phone with Casper state Rep. Steve Harshman and others in the Legislature about the matter. Harshman had not yet responded to a Cowboy State Daily call by deadline.

Facebook posts about the issue are encouraging Casper residents opposed to pit to contact their legislators.

Rozmaring Czaban is another area resident who said any proposed mine should not be allowed on the Squaw Creek section of state land.

“There are entirely too many adverse consequences from its location on the land itself — the wildlife, the flow of waters, pollution from noise, air, ground and water,” she said. “The people don't want or support it. It doesn't benefit them, but rather is detrimental in all ways.”

Dustin Neal is a graphic artist who lives in the area, who said the proposed gravel pit will hurt property values and create health issues from blowing dust. He said it does not make sense to put it near homes.

“If you Google it, you will get 10 pages why” to not have gravel mining near residential areas, he said. He said the Squaw Creek area is used for trail running, hiking and many more outdoor activities.

“They should look at other options and find a new home,” he said.

State land now set aside for non-motorized use is being considered for a gravel mining operation on the southwest side of Casper.
State land now set aside for non-motorized use is being considered for a gravel mining operation on the southwest side of Casper. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

More Hurdles To Clear

True said his company is working closely with the DEQ and that if the project moves forward in whatever section, his firm would need to comply with state rules and regulations that govern gravel operations.

“I think our DEQ is actually pretty good at protecting what we have in the state while accessing resources we need, so every site is planned, overseen by DEQ,” he said.

True also said Natrona County planning and zoning rules would also require his company to obtain a conditional use permit.

“So, before anything went forward, the county commissioners would kind of approve the DEQ plan that is put together in concert between us and the DEQ,” he said.

A call to the county’s Planning Department referred Cowboy State Daily to county commissioners for comments. A call to Commission Chairman Peter Nicolaysen was not returned by deadline.

True said he is unaware of Senate File 44, which is moving through the Legislature now and with which Casper residents believe would allow Prism Logistics and other mining operations to bypass local approval.

Summer Start?

If the DEQ process moves forward, True said there is the possibility of a limited 15-acre mining operation starting this summer if everything is approved. But any timeline would be dependent on studies of water, geology, population impact, and other factors.

He emphasized that the exploration phase is only an initial step to determine feasibility.

“There is no proposal on the table currently and so there is nothing really to react to,” True said. “The size of the resource is currently being assessed.”

DEQ spokesperson Kimberly Mazza confirmed the Prism exploration permit. A letter of approval to Prism states that Wyoming Game and Fish Department reviewed the proposal and placed stipulations related to not exploring within a sage grouse core area or a mule deer and antelope migration corridor.

Prism put down a $27,000 reclamation performance bond for the project, according to the DEQ letter.

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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