Metals

Utah has a rich history in mining metals that has been integral to the development of the state since the 1860s. The total historical value of metal mining in the state is valued at over $215 billion, placing Utah as the third largest metal-producing state in the United States. Major mining districts in the state include the Bingham Canyon, Tintic, Park City, Iron Springs, Lisbon Valley, Mercur, and Spor Mountain districts, all of which have produced over $2 billion from metals mining. The Bingham Canyon district alone has produced approximately 80 percent of Utah’s total historical metal production value. Ranked in order by the most valuable metals for Utah are:

  1. copper (+$100 billion),
  2. gold, molybdenum, silver, lead, and iron ($5–55 billion),
  3. zinc, uranium, beryllium ($1–5 billion), and
  4. vanadium, manganese, and tungsten ($5–150 million).

Copper is the most valuable mined commodity in the state, making Utah the second-highest copper-producing state, behind Arizona, in the U.S.

Interactive Maps

Modern mining has its roots in Utah when in 1906 Daniel C. Jackling made the decision to mine the Bingham Canyon copper mine using open-pit methods and utilizing steam shovels and railroad. This marked a major departure from the traditional mining methods which had focused on small but high-grade deposits (such as veins) and is characteristic of copper mining all over the world today, which focuses on low grade but high tonnage deposits. Jackling’s methods made Bingham Canyon the largest industrial mining complex in the world by 1912, and to date, it is the largest manmade excavation in the world. Bingham Canyon has also been recognized as the world’s deepest open-pit mine. Bingham Canyon is primarily known for its copper production, but also produces molybdenum, gold, and silver (in the past it also produced lead and zinc). Bingham has consistently been and remains to this day a world-class copper mine and the most productive mining district in the United States.

Utah also has other nationally and globally important metal mining operations including base and precious metals, energy minerals, and critical minerals. Utah is the third-largest producer of uranium, historically, and hosts the only operating uranium-vanadium mill in the United States, the White Mesa Mill near Blanding. Utah is the world-leader in beryllium production, with historically up to 85 percent of global beryllium supply mined from the Spor Mountain mine in Juab County. Utah also ranks fifth in the United States for iron ore production, and is one of the only states to have produced germanium and gallium.

Metal Resources

The information below includes brief descriptions of some of Utah’s metal resources and helpful references or articles about those resources. If you would like to speak to a geologist about Utah’s metals, please contact Stephanie Mills at smills@utah.gov or 801-537-3308. Use the arrows to scroll through Utah’s metals.

COPPER

Utah is home to the Bingham Canyon mine, which is the second-largest copper-producing mine in the United States. Copper is Utah’s most valuable metal commodity, both currently and historically. The value of all the copper ever mined in Utah is over $100 billion, more than twice the amount of any other metal mined in Utah. Copper is an essential metal in everyday life and is one of the most widely used metals globally. More than 50 percent of copper supply is used for infrastructure applications such as electrical wiring, plumbing, electronic equipment, and more.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

MOLYBDENUM

Molybdenum in Utah is produced from the Bingham Canyon mine, where it occurs in the mineral molybdenite. The molybdenum mineralization at Bingham Canyon generally occurs deeper than the copper mineralization. Molybdenum is used primarily in the production of stronger and more corrosion-resistant iron alloys. Eighty percent of the molybdenum produced globally is used in specialty steels, cast iron, and super alloys, the remaining 20 percent is used in chemical compounds, particularly industrial lubricants.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

GOLD AND SILVER

Gold and silver have a long history of being mined in Utah, and gold is Utah’s second most valuable metal commodity. Porphyry districts, such as Bingham, Tintic, and Park City, produced both gold and silver. Sediment-hosted gold districts, like the Mercur district, produced only gold. Gold and silver are generally known for their uses in jewelry, coinage, and monetary backing, but also have uses in a variety of industrial and electronic applications due to their unique properties. For example, gold is extremely malleable and can be made into sheets only a few atoms thick. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any element.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

URANIUM AND VANADIUM

Utah has been a leader in uranium production, ranking as the third-largest uranium-producing state in the U.S. The vast amount of Utah’s uranium production has come from the sandstone-hosted uranium deposits of the Colorado Plateau, where vanadium was also produced as a byproduct of the uranium mining. Uranium’s main application is fuel for nuclear energy, whereas vanadium is used mainly for metallurgical purposes, such as high-strength low-alloy steel.

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Historical Uranium/Vanadium Publication Collection
Utah Mining 2019
Map 215dm Report
Map 215dm GIS

BERYLLIUM

Beryllium in Utah is produced from the Spor Mountain mine in Juab County, where bertrandite (Be4Si2O7(OH)2) forms with fluorite in small nodules. This operation is the sole producer of beryllium in the United States, and also the largest producer of beryllium in the world, accounting for approximately 70 percent to 85 percent of the world’s annual production. This dependence on a singular site, in addition to the difficulty of replacing beryllium with a substitute metal, qualified beryllium as a critical mineral by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2018.

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Utah Mining 2019

IRON ORE

The Iron Springs district, located on the eastern edge of the Basin and Range Province in southwestern Utah, is the largest iron-producing district in the western United States and historically produced over $6.5 billion worth of iron ore. Principal iron ore minerals are hematite and magnetite and they occur as veins, breccia, and skarn orebodies. Iron ore was produced from the district until 2014, when operations were suspended due to the low price of iron ore. Mining has not been restarted.

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Bulletin 88

LEAD AND ZINC

Lead and zinc are Utah’s fifth- and seventh-most historically-valuable metal commodities, respectively. They have been produced from multiple mines around the state, mostly concentrated in the Bingham, Park City, and Tintic mining districts. Zinc is the third most used non-ferrous metal globally (after aluminum and copper) and is mainly utilized in galvanizing steel. Lead, another of the most widely used metals, largely goes to the production of lead-acid batteries. In addition to mining, lead and zinc are both produced in large amounts through recycling.

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Open-File Report 466

MANGANESE

Utah hosts many manganese deposits, most notably in the Drum Mountain district (also known as the Detroit district) where over 80 percent of manganese mined in Utah originated. Manganese often cannot be mined economically except during periods of very high prices, hence manganese was often a byproduct of other metal mining, such as in the Big and Little Cottonwood district and the Ophir district.

Read More
USGS Bulletin 979-A

OTHER HISTORIC METALS
(W, As, Sb, Ga, Ge, etc.)

Many more metals have had a long mining history in Utah. Some, such as tungsten, arsenic, and antimony are relatively common and have been mined in other states in the United States. Others, such as germanium and gallium, are rare and have only been mined in a few localities. For historical mining records, please search the UGS publications repository.

Read More
Publications Repository

COPPER

Utah is home to the Bingham Canyon mine, which is the second-largest copper-producing mine in the United States. Copper is Utah’s most valuable metal commodity, both currently and historically. The value of all the copper ever mined in Utah is over $100 billion, more than twice the amount of any other metal mined in Utah. Copper is an essential metal in everyday life and is one of the most widely used metals globally. More than 50 percent of copper supply is used for infrastructure applications such as electrical wiring, plumbing, electronic equipment, and more.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

MOLYBDENUM

Molybdenum in Utah is produced from the Bingham Canyon mine, where it occurs in the mineral molybdenite. The molybdenum mineralization at Bingham Canyon generally occurs deeper than the copper mineralization. Molybdenum is used primarily in the production of stronger and more corrosion-resistant iron alloys. Eighty percent of the molybdenum produced globally is used in specialty steels, cast iron, and super alloys, the remaining 20 percent is used in chemical compounds, particularly industrial lubricants.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

GOLD AND SILVER

Gold and silver have a long history of being mined in Utah, and gold is Utah’s second most valuable metal commodity. Porphyry districts, such as Bingham, Tintic, and Park City, produced both gold and silver. Sediment-hosted gold districts, like the Mercur district, produced only gold. Gold and silver are generally known for their uses in jewelry, coinage, and monetary backing, but also have uses in a variety of industrial and electronic applications due to their unique properties. For example, gold is extremely malleable and can be made into sheets only a few atoms thick. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any element.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

URANIUM AND VANADIUM

Utah has been a leader in uranium production, ranking as the third-largest uranium-producing state in the U.S. The vast amount of Utah’s uranium production has come from the sandstone-hosted uranium deposits of the Colorado Plateau, where vanadium was also produced as a byproduct of the uranium mining. Uranium’s main application is fuel for nuclear energy, whereas vanadium is used mainly for metallurgical purposes, such as high-strength low-alloy steel.

Read More
Historical Uranium/Vanadium Publication Collection
Utah Mining 2019
Map 215dm Report
Map 215dm GIS

BERYLLIUM

Beryllium in Utah is produced from the Spor Mountain mine in Juab County, where bertrandite (Be4Si2O7(OH)2) forms with fluorite in small nodules. This operation is the sole producer of beryllium in the United States, and also the largest producer of beryllium in the world, accounting for approximately 70 percent to 85 percent of the world’s annual production. This dependence on a singular site, in addition to the difficulty of replacing beryllium with a substitute metal, qualified beryllium as a critical mineral by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2018.

Read More
Utah Mining 2019

IRON ORE

The Iron Springs district, located on the eastern edge of the Basin and Range Province in southwestern Utah, is the largest iron-producing district in the western United States and historically produced over $6.5 billion worth of iron ore. Principal iron ore minerals are hematite and magnetite and they occur as veins, breccia, and skarn orebodies. Iron ore was produced from the district until 2014, when operations were suspended due to the low price of iron ore. Mining has not been restarted.

Read More
Bulletin 88

LEAD AND ZINC

Lead and zinc are Utah’s fifth- and seventh-most historically-valuable metal commodities, respectively. They have been produced from multiple mines around the state, mostly concentrated in the Bingham, Park City, and Tintic mining districts. Zinc is the third most used non-ferrous metal globally (after aluminum and copper) and is mainly utilized in galvanizing steel. Lead, another of the most widely used metals, largely goes to the production of lead-acid batteries. In addition to mining, lead and zinc are both produced in large amounts through recycling.

Read More
Open-File Report 466

MANGANESE

Utah hosts many manganese deposits, most notably in the Drum Mountain district (also known as the Detroit district) where over 80 percent of manganese mined in Utah originated. Manganese often cannot be mined economically except during periods of very high prices, hence manganese was often a byproduct of other metal mining, such as in the Big and Little Cottonwood district and the Ophir district.

Read More
USGS Bulletin 979-A

OTHER HISTORIC METALS
(W, As, Sb, Ga, Ge, etc.)

Many more metals have had a long mining history in Utah. Some, such as tungsten, arsenic, and antimony are relatively common and have been mined in other states in the United States. Others, such as germanium and gallium, are rare and have only been mined in a few localities. For historical mining records, please search the UGS publications repository.

Read More
Publications Repository

Historical Uranium and Vanadium Publication Collection

For the 2020 National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program pertaining to critical minerals, the UGS proposed to digitize and publish historical uranium and vanadium mining files online; update current mineral deposit, geochemical, and mining district GIS products; and produce a modern summary publication of uranium and vanadium mining in Utah.

Utah Core Research Center

The Utah Core Research Center (UCRC) contains the region’s only publicly available and most complete collection of geologic cuttings and core from Utah. The facility currently holds cuttings from approximately 5,400 drill holes; core samples from more than 1,500 drill holes; a collection of type oils from all producing formations in the state; and miscellaneous samples of metallic minerals, industrial rocks and minerals, tar sands, and oil shale. More Information.

Highlighted Scientific Publications

Circular 130

Utah Mining 2019: Metals, Industrial Minerals, Coal, Uranium, and Unconventional Fuels





Public Interest Articles

Metals Articles: 17

External Links