Where Would You Be Without Mining
Utah. . .the Treasure House of the Nation
Utah’s Other Environmentalists
Mining: At The Vevy Heart of Your Community
To most people, mining is something they never experience; yet they benefit from the products of mining everyday of their lives.
This publication has been created to help introduce you to the fascinating mining industry in Utah, with echoes from its colorful and exciting past and its progressive present.
The Utah Mining Association and its member companies hope you will gain a better understanding of the mining industry and its importance in the way you live, work and play by reading this informational brochure.
It all depends upon who you are. Without the hundreds of thousands of material benefits that come from the mining industry your world would be completely different from the way you now live.
Regardless of your age, eliminating the minerals and coal that are mined, processed, smelted or refined by the mining industry would mean that you would no longer be able to enjoy television, radio, or music from a CD…in fact anything that requires electricity. And children’s toys would certainly be much different without mining.
If you think about all the things that you use every day, you will discover for yourself the almost endless uses of metals and plastics and paper, all of which depend upon mining for their existence.
Our daily lifestyle would be remarkably different, and life would be much more primitive than the so-called “good old days.” Consider the way the home is cleaned, the way laundry is handled, the way the home is heated and cooled, and the way food is cooked and prepared. Doing all those things today are much easier and more efficient thanks to mining and the related industries.
For people who go to work every day, your livelihood is directly dependent upon the good things that come from mining. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do, mining-originated products come into play throughout your entire day. And even your leisure time is filled with the use of things that had their beginnings in the minerals of the earth.
When you come down to it, it’s really impossible to escape the myriad things we use every day… and take for granted… that come from the mines of America.
Think about this. Without mining, there would be no other industries and no other jobs…no agriculture or transportation…no schools or hospitals…no manufacturing or retailing…no housing or other buildings…no national defense… no society more advanced than that of the caveman. That’s how important mining is to all of us.
And think about this. According to the Minerals Education Coalition(http://www.mineralseducationcoalition.org/), “Every year, nearly 38,524 pounds of new minerals must be provided for every person in the United States to make the products we buy and the various things we use.” The average child born today will require 3.03 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime, including:
Mining yields so much good for the world, yet the miner’s pick has touched less than one percent of the earth’s surface. On the other hand, power transmission lines cover just as much territory as mining, and transportation systems occupy 15 times more land than mining.
In Utah, only about one tenth of one percent of the state’s 54,393,600 acres has ever been touched by mining activities. And yet, Utah’s mines have produced a very impressive variety of coal and minerals.
|Try this. Think of all the things you come in contact with everyday, such as:
If somehow, all the good things of life that come from minerals, coal, and the mining industry were suddenly taken away from us, we would be standing in the midst of a world devoid of almost everything.
Here are a few more items of interest:
Of the hundreds of known economic minerals, 75 are found in Utah, and 14 have helped make this state a major mineral producer on the national and world scale. Copper, coal, gold, silver, uranium, iron, lead, zinc, molybdenum, phosphate, salt, potash, beryllium, and gilsonite head the list. In about 1862, President Abraham Lincoln declared, “Utah will yet become the Treasure House of the nation.” The years have borne out this view.
Pioneer settlers began harvesting salt from the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Early on, stone, clay, sand, gravel, and cement were used to build homes businesses, various buildings and churches.
The Territorial Legislature in 1854 offered a $1,000 reward for the first commercial coal deposit within 40 miles of Salt Lake City, but it went unclaimed until 1868 when the first coal for heating was shipped by wagon from Coalville in Summit County at a hefty $40 a ton. Coal had been discovered in Carbon County in 1849, but the distance made it impractical for wagon haulage to Salt Lake. The arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad failed to lower the price of Coalville coal, and it was not until the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was built through Carbon County in 1883 that major production began there. This broke up the UP monopoly and made coal available in Utah cities at a more reasonable price.
The arrival of the D&RG brought about the development of several mines. The quality and quantity makes Utah coal the backbone of electrical generation. New machinery, called a “Long Wall,” has greatly increased coal mining efficiency and productivity. Today, Utah coal is shipped as far as the Pacific Rim through a new and unique loading facility at the Port of Los Angeles.
Iron ore deposits were found near Cedar City in 1849, where the Pioneer Iron Company built a crude foundry. While their small blast furnace only operated during 1852-53, it did produce the first pig iron west of the Mississippi.
In 1863, soldiers stationed at Fort Douglas under the command of Colonel Patrick Connor were sent into the Oquirrh Mountains to explore for minerals. Their discoveries led to the development of mines producing gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc, and earned Colonel Connor the title, “Father of Utah Mining.” Over the next 30 years, immigrants from Northern and Western Europe poured into the mining camps in and around Bingham Canyon to seek their fortunes.
The abundant low-grade copper ore was largely ignored in those early days, and it wasn’t until the turn of the century when Daniel C. Jackling, a young metallurgical engineer, developed a mass production method of profitably mining and processing the ore that commercial copper mining began. To mine from the surface on a large, industrial scale required labor and thousands of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Mexico came to the area. The rest is history. Today, Kennecott’s Bingham Canyon Mine is the largest and richest man-made excavation on earth.
In 1864, shortly after the Bingham discoveries, explorers found rich silver, zinc, and lead deposits in the Big-and-Little Cottonwood Canyon areas on the The Mountain Lake Mining District was organized in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The most famous operation was the Prince of Wales group of mines that primarily produced lead and zinc.
Tooele County has 22 metal mining districts in our Treasure House . . . more than any other county in the state. The first districts organized were the Rush Valley in 1864 and the Ophir in 1870. Both became big producers of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc.
The Camp Floyd District was also discovered in 1870 with a rich surface deposit of silver ore. But when the ore ran out, the district was practically abandoned in 1874. In 1879, a Bavarian immigrant discovered gold ore on the western slopes of the Oquirrhs near the town of Mercur, and another boom was underway. Mercur’s population reached 4,000 to 6,000 during four different “boom and bust” periods. Mercur’s prosperity was revived in 1985 by American Barrick Resources Corp., which mined and also reprocessed tailings from previous operations. By 1998, the ore had been exhausted and Mercur is now undergoing reclamation.
About 1869, the Park City District was established and soon became one of the most outstanding gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc producers in Utah. Mines in Summit County also were major nonmetallic producers, with such minerals as oil, coal, clays, shale, sand, gravel, and stone.
The Park City mines generated fabulous wealth for may people who used their fortunes to help develop the growing and thriving Salt Lake City area.
The American Fork District in Utah County was organized in 1870, and the Miller Mine began operations that same year. After producing hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold, silver, and lead, the property was sold for $120,000 in 1871.
The richest period of Utah County’s mineral history began with the construction of the Ironton blast furnace in 1923-24. The operation became the property of U.S. Steel Corp. in 1930.
A huge boost to the mining industry occurred in 1879, when the Utah Central Railroad reached Salt Lake from Promontory Point to the north along the Idaho border. Once the rail line arrived in Salt Lake, it didn’t take long for connecting lines to reach the dozens of mining camps in the surrounding mountains. Gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc mining were expanded with deposits found in the Tintic and other Juab County districts in the 1870s. In 1878, the railroad reached the Eureka District, and ores were shipped to such points as Swansea, Wales and Baltimore, Maryland for smelting. By 1899, there were 18 producing operations, and Eureka became a thriving community.
In 1869, John Kemple discovered the first silver ore in Washington County when he found a piece of silver float near Harrisburg that assayed at $17,000! This discovery eventually led to the establishment of the Silver Reef District in 1874. A big rush was on in 1876, when many producing mines were developed. Five different reduction mills were built in the district in 1877-78, with a total output of close to $4 million.
In Millard County, the first mining operations began in 1872, when the Detroit District was organized. Some rich surface ores were found that added to the gold, silver, and copper production of Utah. At first the ores were shipped to Chicago and even Wales, but in 1888 a small blast furnace was constructed at Hot Springs, 11 miles from Abraham. The plant burned down several years later, after producing 130,000 pounds of copper.
In the following years, other districts were established in Millard County as more and more deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, and sand and gravel were discovered.
In 1885, a prospector named Sam Gilson discovered what he would call Gilsonite, a rare, tar-like material found only in Utah. Gilsonite not only makes fine lacquers, paints, varnishes, and printing inks, but it was found to be an excellent sealing material for beer barrels. As early as 1876, Uintah County also had producing copper, gold, and silver mines, but today Gilsonite and phosphate are the major commodities in the Uintah Basin.
In 1948, the federal government announced a $10,000 premium for significant discoveries of uranium to meet defense needs, and guaranteed $3.50 a pound for high-grade ore. Deposits had been found near Marysville in 1947, but in the summer of 1952, geologist Charles A. Steen discovered the first major producer, the Mi Vida Mine 40 miles southeast of Moab. He later sold his holdings to the Atlas Corporation. Government support continued for all uranium producers until 1971, when the Atomic Energy Commission declared that no further stockpiles were needed. During World War II, vanadic oxide mines operated in San Juan County with the support of the federal government to meet needs for vanadium, a rare mineral used to strengthen steel.
Mineral deposits are so broadly distributed across Utah that there are mining districts in 24 of our 29 counties, and with economic viability these resources can add to the strength and wealth of the state for many years to come.
A few years ago, a Utah mining company executive was speaking to a group of mining engineering students at the University of Utah. One student asked a question that began, “What would you do if the environmentalists . . .?” The mining executive quickly responded, “Wait just a second here. I’m an environmentalist; I work in the environment every day.”There is no question that mining must disturb the earth. But it is important to balance society’s need for minerals, metals and fuel with an environmentally sound approach to mining. When mining is completed at any given location, the land is typically reclaimed by recontouring, revegetation, stream restoration, and other, often specialized reclamation treatments, resulting in the return of the land to its original use and terrain.
The cleanup of historic mining wastes in Butterfield Canyon, shown before (left) and after (below), is part of Kennecott Utah Copper's on-going commitment to the reclamation and revegetation of land surrounding the company's operations in the Oquirrh Mountains.
In Utah’s mining operations today, environmental protection is one of the major philosophical and economic factors of mine planning. Preserving the balance of our delicate ecosystems, while at the same time providing us with raw materials for the products so vital to our standard of living, is one of mining’s highest priorities. Every day, a small army of Utah mining company environmental engineers and scientists work to conserve animal and plant habitat, and protect precious resources like water.
Mining companies must observe some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the country. From reclamation bonding to air quality regulations on use of diesel fuel, mining companies work within a very strict regulatory system. But Utah miners don’t mind, because they understand, perhaps more than most, the importance of their effect on the environment. In case after case, mining industry environmental programs exceed those required by government regulation.
Often, the general public does not fully understand that mining’s commitment to environmental stewardship comes from within the industry. Utah’s miners are themselves environmentalists. Not only do they work in the environment every day, as the executive said, they also enjoy Utah’s lifestyle and scenic and recreational wonders. Miners and their families live here, along side you and your family. They breathe the same air and drink the same water.
They hike the trails, fish the streams, and enjoy the views. Miners value our other natural resources as much as our mineral resources.
Because of this, doing the right thing environmentally has become second nature to Utah’s miners.
At the SF Phosphates Ltd. operations north of Vernal, Utah, the company generally follows a mining and reclamation program as illustrated below.
Areas to be mined are first cleared of existing vegetation by bulldozers (1), and the topsoil is removed by large scrapers (2) and stored for later use in land reclamation (3).
Beneath the topsoil is a layer of rocky material 30-40 feet thick known as overburden, which covers the zone to be mined.
A pattern of holes is drilled through the overburden layer (4), loaded with explosives and then blasted (5) to break up the ground for removal by D-10 dozers (6), which push the overburden into previously mined areas (7). After the overburden and the top one foot of caprock on the ore are removed, a small drill (8) penetrates the ore zone with a pattern of holes that are blasted (9).
The broken ore is next removed by loader or shovel (10), loaded onto trucks, and then fed to a portable crusher, or if the portable crusher is within a short distance of the mining area, loaders will feed it directly by load and haul. The feeder breaker (crusher) (11) reduces the ore to 10 inches or less in size to be fed onto the conveyor system (12) leading to the ore storage pile that feeds the semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill system.
Meanwhile, land restoration and revegetation takes place in previously mined out areas with dozers (13) contouring the terrain, using overburden materials and re-applying salvaged topsoil, followed by a tractor-seeder (14) operation, bringing new plant life to the reclaimed terrain.
In every Utah community, both large and small, the positive influences of the mining industry can be seen, enjoyed and appreciated by every man, woman and child…by every local, county and state government entity…and by universities, colleges and schools and arts, cultural and charitable organizations.
Despite the cyclical nature of mining, contributions to the community have always been generous and good for the area’s way of life, whether in the form of financial support of worthwhile causes, or in the form of cultural, educational, recreational and healthcare facilities that mining’s taxes help provide. Mining has left its mark in so many beneficial ways throughout Utah’s history.
Mining company employees voluntarily serve their local communities and worthy causes and projects through personal time, mentoring and other forms of assistance.
Our quality of life is dependent upon mining: from the copper plumbing in our homes and businesses to the coal to generate the electricity that powers our society. It is for this reason that the industry can sincerely say, “Everything Begins With Mining!”
Mining is much more than proud, honest, dedicated, hard-working people.
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