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From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up: A History of Mining in Utah

Edited by Colleen Whitley
Foreword by Philip F. Notarianni
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 508
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  • Book Info
    From the Ground Up
    Book Description:

    Despite mining's multidimensional role in the history of Utah since Euro-american settlement, there has never been a book that surveyed and contextualized its impact. From the Ground Up fill that gap with a collection of essays by leading Utah historians and geologists. Essays here address the geology of the state, the economic history of mining in Utah, and the lore of mines and miners. Additionally, the book reviews a handul of particularly significant mineral industries---saline, coal, uranium, and beryllium---and surveys important hard-rock mining regions of the state.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-544-1
    Subjects: History, Geology

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. XI-XII)
    Philip F. Notarianni

    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 profoundly influenced by these forces.

    Mormons relied on an agrarian economy for survival. Ironically, prospectors en route to the gold-rush fields of California and Nevada provided needed monies to support the fledgling Mormon community. Yet Mormon...

  2. Preface
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
    Colleen Whitley
  3. Part I The Ground of Utah Mining

    • 1 Geology and Utah’s Mineral Treasures
      (pp. 3-36)
      William T. Parry

      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 only did the discoverers not understand the diverse processes, but neither did the scientists of the day. Much of what we know has been learned in the past few decades. The geological...

    • 2 Generating Wealth from the Earth 1847–2000
      (pp. 37-57)
      Thomas G. Alexander

      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, aluminum, potash, and magnesium. Building materials fashioned from clay, gravel, stone, gypsum, dolomite, cement, and limestone have made life more comfortable. Societies have obtained energy for domestic, commercial, and manufacturing needs from coal, oil, and natural gas. Builders have paved...

    • 3 General Patrick Edward Connor, Father of Utah Mining
      (pp. 58-80)
      Brigham D. Madsen

      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 by Connor from the gold camps in California and often considered themselves miners first and soldiers second. Wherever they went on Indian-hunting expeditions in Utah Territory, they spent almost as...

    • 4 The Stories They Tell
      (pp. 81-98)
      Carma Wadley

      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.

      El Dorado, where the king supposedly coated himself in gold dust once a year in tribute to the gods, was surely just over the next ridge of hills, they said, despite the fact that for more than two centuries, no one—not the Spanish, not the French, not...

  4. Part II Some Mineral Industries

    • 5 Saline Minerals
      (pp. 101-125)
      J. Wallace Gwynn

      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, chlorine gas, potassium sulfate, magnesium chloride, and nutritional supplements. A few of the by-products and potential products include ferrous and ferric chloride, calcium chloride, sodium sulfate, lithium carbonate, bromine, and boron.


    • 6 Coal Industry
      (pp. 126-141)
      Allan Kent Powell

      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 converted to diesel fuel to power their locomotives, and the principal market for Utah coal became local coal-fired power plants and markets outside the United States.

      In addition to water and...

    • 7 Uranium Boom
      (pp. 142-165)
      Raye C. Ringholz

      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 dinosaurs left their three-toed footprints on the ground. Then, after another cycle of inundation, upheaval, and drainage, deepening sands formed multicolored layers to create an imprint of time.

      Wind, water, frost,...

    • 8 Beryllium Mining
      (pp. 166-194)
      Debra Wagner

      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 integrated with a controlled supply and a production capability for all major commercial beryllium products.¹

      The first pit opened in 1968, and the mill near Lynndyl began operation in 1969. Since that time, the open-pit mining operations have been...

  5. Part III Major Mining Regions

    • 9 Iron County
      (pp. 197-219)
      Janet Burton Seegmiller

      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, little mining remains. Despite the mineral resources available, it is currently easier and cheaper to mine elsewhere.

      Without question Iron County is accurately named.¹ Within its borders lie the richest and most accessible...

    • 10 Bingham Canyon
      (pp. 220-249)
      Bruce D. Whitehead and Robert E. Rampton

      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. One story attributes it to two early Mormon pioneers, Thomas and Sanford Bingham, who were the first to use the canyon for cattle grazing and to whom it owes its name.¹ Another says the ore was found...

    • 11 Silver Reef and Southwestern Utah’s Shifting Frontier
      (pp. 250-271)
      W. Paul Reeve

      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 unfavorable looking country for mines that I have ever seen in my varied mining experience,” Barbee explained, “but, as the mines are here, what are the rock sharps going to do...

    • 12 Alta, the Cottonwoods, and American Fork
      (pp. 272-317)
      Laurence P. James and James E. Fell Jr.

      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 Canyon, and nearby American Fork Canyon. More than any other area, except Bingham Canyon across the valley, they brought mining in Utah to life, sustained it for a time, and left behind an important...

    • 13 Park City
      (pp. 318-341)
      Hal Compton and David Hampshire

      “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 is honey-combed beneath the surface by many miles of underground workings.”¹

      Today, with three major ski areas, several golf courses, and hundreds of luxury homes, Park City...

    • 14 Tintic Mining District
      (pp. 342-358)
      Philip F. Notarianni

      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 Valley, Goshen Valley, and Cedar Valley.¹

      In the Tintic area, gold, silver, lead, and copper were the primary minerals. Zonal descriptions of mineralization best facilitate an understanding of...

    • 15 San Francisco Mining District
      (pp. 359-377)
      Martha Sonntag Bradley-Evans

      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 distinctive visual features. Toward the southern end of the range, Frisco, once a rousing and colorful mining town of the nineteenth century, prospered because of the riches...

    • 16 Uinta Basin
      (pp. 378-391)
      John Barton

      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 Colorado Plateau Province. The Uinta Mountains are the dominant feature of the region, and they form the basin’s north rim. The Uintas, the highest range in Utah, are rugged mountains that angle...

  6. Glossary of Geologic and Mining Terms
    (pp. 392-417)
  7. Resources and Bibliography
    (pp. 456-482)