The Utah Geological Survey has been tapped with federal money to conduct a three-year study of the nation’s only established resource of a critical mineral — and it is found only in Utah’s Juab County.

The state agency will also use the money for research on other critical minerals in that region.

Indium is important. It is used to craft touch screens, like the one on your cellphone, or windshields, like those in your car. For anyone who desires the installation of solar panels, it is necessary. It also has other industrial applications.

“We are excited for the opportunity to study the unique geology of this deposit and learn more about why so many important critical mineral resources are concentrated here,” said Stephanie Mills, senior geologist with the Utah Geological Survey and principal investigator of this study.

How the study works: No indium was produced in the United States last year, and researchers believe the Utah deposit is enough to meet the entire domestic demand for 10 years. Resources of zinc, an essential component for many metal alloys and considered a critical mineral, and copper, one of the most essential commodities for electric vehicles and efficient energy grids, are also found in the West Desert.

The Utah Geological Survey was awarded $300,000 to partner with American West Metals, a mining company that owns the deposit. The study allows the state agency unhindered access to the site for additional research and to do critical mineral mapping.

Utah’s connection to vital minerals: According to the survey, American West is a mining company focused on developing low-footprint resources to support the global energy transition. 

Utah is host to a wide variety of rare earth elements and critical minerals and plays a critical role in U.S. domestic production.

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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.

While the Biden administration has an ambitious plan for the entire country to transition to clean energy, the need for more domestic production instead of relying on dominant foreign players — like China — has set up a political quandary as protesters have pushed back on new or planned projects.

In January, President Joe Biden’s Department of Interior canceled two leases for a Minnesota copper mining project.

As then the presumptive Democratic nominee for the U.S. presidency, Biden said in 2020 that he was opposed to any uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. But with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, his administration ramped up efforts for more domestic production of uranium, as nearly half the U.S. supply comes from Russia and its allies.

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