From the Ground Up
A History of Mining in Utah
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: Utah State University Press
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Mining played a vital role in diversifying both the economy and population of Utah. These factors in turn exerted an impact upon geography, architecture, business activity, and social movements. The tandem industries of mining and railroading combined to change the face of Utah—changes that remain evident in all aspects of the state’s history. The ethnic and geographical landscapes of Utah continue to be ...
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Mining is Utah’s oldest nonagricultural industry. It is also the largest. The mining industry has directly employed thousands in mining, milling, refining, and transporting ores. That employment has in turn created thousands more jobs in the support sector: people who provide groceries, clothing, homes, and the dozens of other goods and services needed to maintain a population. Mining has contributed so much to ...
Part 1. The Ground of Utah Mining
1. Geology and Utah’s Mineral Treasures
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The occurrence of valuable mineral resources in Utah and the West is not accidental, but rather the result of understandable geological processes. However, the original discoverers did not understand these processes. Copper is at Bingham, coal at Price, and uranium at Moab because of the geological histories of these areas. A search for coal at Bingham or copper in Carbon County would be, and probably was, futile. Not ...
2. Generating Wealth from the Earth 1847–2000
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The increase in wealth of all advanced nations has depended to an appreciable extent on extracting and utilizing minerals from the Earth’s treasure trove. People have used precious minerals like gold and silver to manufacture such diverse items as coins, jewelry, and electronic parts. Prosperity has depended upon fashioning useful and decorative objects from copper, iron, zinc, molybdenum, chrome, beryllium, ...
3. General Patrick Edward Connor Father of Utah Mining
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General Patrick Edward Connor was the prime mover in the start of mining operations in Utah Territory. His soldiers, sent under his command from Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas), established the first large-scale mining districts in Utah in the early 1860s. It is important to emphasize that most of his California Volunteers, sent to Utah in 1862 to keep the mail lines open during the Civil War, had been recruited ...
4. The Stories They Tell
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Long before mining was an industry on this continent, it was a quest. From the very beginning of European settlement, myths and legends whispered of gold, of silver, of precious gems and metals all there for the taking. Such stories were a powerful pull for daring explorers in search of easy riches. ...
Part II. Some Mineral Industries
5. Saline Minerals
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Utah’s saline industry is one of the oldest in the state, beginning with the commercial harvesting of salt from Great Salt Lake by the Mormon pioneers in 1847. The salt industry on the lake has continued from that time to the present, marked by the appearance and disappearance of many companies. Today three companies extract salt from the lake. Other products harvested from the lake include magnesium metal, ...
Maps - Non-Metallic Mineral Resources of Utah: Maps follow page 106 in Chapter 5
6. Coal Industry
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Throughout the history of Utah, coal has been a critical resource for the development of the state’s economy. Initially coal was used to heat homes and buildings, as fuel for the steam locomotives, and when the coal was of high enough quality to produce coke, as fuel for smelting metals mined from Utah’s mountains. Later, when natural gas replaced ash- and soot-producing coal as a source of heat, railroads ...
7. Uranium Boom
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Some 200 million years ago, as a vast prehistoric sea drained from what is now the Colorado Plateau, a network of residual marshes and rivers deposited accumulations of mud, salt, sand, and gypsum across the arid land. The surface warped and tilted; raging winds and flash floods ripped huge trees from the hillsides and carried them to flatlands, where they were left to petrify among the conglomerates; and massive ...
8. Beryllium Mining
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Brush Resources Inc., formerly Brush Wellman Inc., mines beryllium-bearing ore from the company’s Topaz Mining Properties. Discovery of beryllium ore occurred in 1959. The find created much excitement within the mining industry. As time unfolded, these deposits proved to be a valuable resource, opening the door for the beryllium industry to grow. This ore source permitted the company to become fully ...
Part III. Major Mining Regions
9. Iron County
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Mining has come full circle in Iron County. Explorers in the early 1850s found vast reserves of iron and coal, leading to the settlement of the area. Deposits of silver, gold, lead, fluorspar, and gypsum were discovered later. These finds produced headlines in local newspapers, but only iron and coal mining prospered, and that occurred almost 100 years after settlement. At the turn of the twenty-first century, ...
10. Bingham Canyon
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The first mining claim in the Utah Territory was filed on 7 September 1863 after the discovery of mineral-bearing ore in Bingham Canyon. Articles of formation of the West Mountain Quartz Mining District were approved on 17 September, and the following December, the first mining district was established. Various historical accounts offer slightly different versions of the discovery of ore in Bingham Canyon. ...
11 Silver Reef and Southwestern Utah’s Shifting Frontier
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In a series of letters to the Salt Lake Tribune in the fall of 1875 and spring of 1876, prospector William Tecumseh Barbee announced a “singular discovery”: silver had been found in sandstone. “The country is wild with excitement,” Barbee exclaimed and noted that southern Utah’s “sandstone country beats all the boys,” especially the “sheets of silver which are exposed all over the different reefs. . . . This is the most ...
12. Alta, the Cottonwoods, and American Fork
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Alta and Snowbird! By the twenty-first century, their remarkable snow, challenging terrain, and spectacular scenery had made them world-famous ski areas. But their origin had nothing to do with skiing. Alta and Snowbird sprang to life because of the minerals industry, an endeavor little known and poorly understood in the history of Utah—and that is especially true of mining in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Big Cottonwood Can-...
13. Park City
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“Perhaps the most striking feature of the Park City mining district is that it does not look like a great mining district,” geologist M. B. Kildale wrote in 1956. “Despite the fact that several large waste dumps are scattered throughout the twenty square mile area which includes the mining district, it is difficult, even today, when looking down from the higher peaks over the lower beautiful woods and canyons to believe this area ...
14. Tintic Mining District
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The Tintic Mining District lies on the western and eastern slopes of the central portion of the East Tintic Mountains, which includes portions of Juab and Utah Counties. They are aligned with the Oquirrh Mountains to the north and merge on the south with the Canyon Range and the Gilson Mountains. The East Tintic range is bordered on the west by the Tintic and Rush Valleys, and on the east by Dog Val-...
15. San Francisco Mining District
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About 15 miles due west of Milford, the San Francisco mountain range forms a swath down the western half of central Utah. After its organization on 12 August 1871, the San Francisco Mining District ran down both legs of this massive range. Grabbing the attention of even the most casual viewer, and dominating the silhouette against the eastern sky, is Frisco Peak. At 9,660 feet high, it is one of Beaver County’s most ...
16. Uinta Basin
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The basin called Uinta in the northeastern part of Utah is a huge depression surrounded by mountains. It is approximately 125 miles long and varies between 40 and 60 miles in width. This unique region, with a variety of notable geographic features, includes Uintah and Duchesne Counties and spills over into western Colorado.1 The Uinta Mountains and basin are part of the larger physiographic region known as the ...
Glossary of Geologic and Mining Terms
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Resources and Bibliography
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About the Authors
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Utah native Thomas G. Alexander earned a PhD in American history from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently the Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Western American History at Brigham Young University. He specializes in Utah history, western history, environmental history, and Mormon history and is the author of more than 120 articles and the author, co-author, edi-...
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Publication Year: 2006