Utah Mining Districts at Your Fingertips

By Ken Krahulec

New Utah Geological Survey Products

The Utah Geological Survey (UGS) has produced two new up-to-date, web-available products on the mining districts of Utah. The first is an interactive web page that allows you to explore Utah’s 185 mining districts and learn about the metallic resources of each district, what metals were produced, when the district produced, and the estimated total production value of each district based on recent average metal prices. A particularly useful component to this interactive map is a one-page summary of each district that includes information on history, metals produced, production significance, most important mines, recognized ore deposit types, and geological setting. The summaries also provide a few key references to get the interested reader started on researching more detailed information about the district’s geology and ore deposits. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management helped fund the development of this web page.

The second new product is UGS Open-File Report 695, which has all 185 one-page mining district summaries along with introductory information and an overview of the importance of Utah’s metal production. A 1:1,000,000-scale map of Utah displays all the mining districts and represents the first update to the Utah mining district map since 1983. On the map, each district is color-coded to the total district production value, ranging from zero to greater than $1 billion, and labeled with the district name and primary mineral commodities produced. Appendices list the 38 ore deposit types recognized in the state, chemical formulas of over 200 minerals found in Utah, and abbreviations for the chemical elements used in the text.

Utah Mining Districts Map Image, versioned from UGS publication OFR-695.

Utah Mining Districts Map Image, versioned from UGS publication OFR-695.

The Utah mining districts report includes some interesting findings and statistical information:

  • Utah is the third largest metal producing state in the U.S., behind Arizona and Nevada, in terms of total historical production.
  • For the major base and precious metals, Utah ranks second in the U.S. in the historical production of copper and silver, third in lead, fifth in gold, and ninth in zinc.
  • Historically, Utah is the largest beryllium and magnesium producing state in the U.S., as well as second largest vanadium, third largest molybdenum and uranium, and fourth largest iron producer.
  • Utah’s total historical metal production value, at recent estimated metal prices, is approximately $217 billion.
  • Utah’s most valuable metals in decreasing order of importance are copper, gold, molybdenum, silver, lead, iron, zinc, uranium, beryllium, vanadium, manganese, and tungsten.

Utah Mining Summary

The Bingham mining district in the Oquirrh Mountains of southwestern Salt Lake County is, by far, Utah’s most significant mining district. The Bingham Canyon open-pit mine is recognized as the first open-pit porphyry copper mine in the world, and porphyry copper mines are currently the world’s most important copper producers. Bingham is also the most productive mining district in the U.S. The district has sustained production for over 150 years, and Bingham’s total historical production value is approximately $174 billion and accounts for about 80 percent of Utah’s total historical production value.

The other most productive Utah districts that have over $1 billion of metal production at current metal prices include Park City (2), Main Tintic (3), Iron Springs (4), East Tintic (5), Mercur (6), Spor Mountain (7), and Lisbon Valley (8). Rounding out the top 10 but with less than $1 billion in production value are the San Francisco (9) and Ophir (10) districts.

Currently, the Bingham, Spor Mountain, Lisbon Valley, and Rocky districts all have mines in production. In addition, districts having significant ore reserves or subeconomic resources include the Bingham, Southwest Tintic, Pine Grove, Spor Mountain, Stockton, Iron Springs, Goldstrike, Tecoma, Gold Springs, Fish Springs, East Tintic, Rocky, Lisbon Valley, La Sal, and South Henry Mountain districts. Furthermore, Bingham, Goldstrike, Gold Springs, Rocky, San Francisco, Fish Springs, Southwest Tintic, and Gold Hill all have ongoing mineral exploration programs.

Another significant fact about Utah mining is that the Spor Mountain district in Juab County currently accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s beryllium production, as it has for the past three or four decades. This fact is particularly notable because beryllium is on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s list of 35 mineral commodities (released in May 2018) deemed critical to the U.S.

Other metals found in Utah on the Interior’s critical minerals list include rhenium, platinum, palladium, uranium, and vanadium. Bingham is the U.S.’s second largest producer of rhenium and also produces minor amounts of platinum and palladium. Utah has historically been an important producer of uranium and vanadium from sandstone-hosted deposits on the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah; however, these operations are currently on standby due to low prices. Recent increases in vanadium prices due to rapidly rising demand may change this situation.

As this summary suggests, Utah’s metallic deposits and mining history are significant. Given the importance of metals in our modern society and the reserves and resources available in the state, metallic mining should continue to be an important contributor to the Utah economy, potentially including future opportunities for rural Utah communities. Our hope is that the new interactive web page and open-file report will prove useful as up-to-date, accessible, and user-friendly introductions and guides to metallic ore deposits of Utah for public, industry, and government users.