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Some surprise takeaways from Utah’s mining industry

Production is up and so are the dollars

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Rio Tinto

SALT LAKE CITY — If you’ve driven a car, rode in an airplane or worked on a computer, chances are pretty good you are a consumer of metals mined in Utah.

In fact, Utah is the United States’ only producer of beryllium and accounted for the production of 65% of the world’s beryllium last year, according to the Utah Geological Survey.

The agency says beryllium is one of the lightest and stiffest metals, used for aerospace and defense applications, as well as for automobiles, computers, medical equipment, telecommunications and more.


Heavy equipment operates at Bingham Canyon Mine west of Salt Lake City

Rio Tinto

A new report by the Utah Geological Survey says mining production increased 2.4%, or $90 million last year. The state’s total extractive resource value in 2019, including oil and gas, was estimated at $6.5 billion.

Mining represented 60%, or $3.9 billion, of the total value and copper remains Utah’s most valuable metal commodity.  

“The mining industry continues to be a strong contributor to Utah’s overall economy, particularly in rural communities, supplying jobs, tax revenue, and the materials needed to build and sustain our modern society,” said the survey’s senior scientist Michael Vanden Berg.

Last year also brought to fruition the first production in Utah of helium as a byproduct of natural gas refining in San Juan County.

While associated with balloons and blimps, helium has extensive uses that include cooling in medical MRI scanners, production of computer chips, inflation of automotive air bags, manufacture of fiber optic cables, among a few.

After hydrogen, helium is the second-most abundant element in the universe, with the United States producing about 75% of the world’s supply.

The survey’s report shows that Utah continues to be in the top 10 in the country for metals and industrial minerals production.

Metals accounted for $2.1 billion of Utah’s mining value ($1.8 billion from Bingham Canyon alone), industrial minerals accounted for $1.3 billion, and coal for $480 million. Copper was Utah’s most valuable metal commodity ($1.2 billion) and brine- and evaporite-derived products were the most valuable industrial mineral commodity group ($483 million).

In fact, when it comes to the most vital mineral resources in the United States, Utah hosts 28 and actively produces six of the nation’s 35 “critical minerals.”

Utah is the only domestic producer of magnesium metal and “high value” potash while Bingham Canyon produces minor amounts of platinum, palladium and rhenium as byproducts of its mining and refining operations.

In September, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to alleviate U.S. reliance on foreign nations for critical minerals and in support of domestic mining and processing industries.

Having access to such minerals, metals and fuels is critical.

The Minerals Education Coalition says every U.S. citizen born will need more than 3.19 million pounds of minerals, metals and fuels over their lifetime, including 950 pounds of copper, 282,444 pounds of coal and 2,692 pounds of aluminum.


Heavy equipment operates at Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon Mine at Kennecott.

Rio Tinto