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Health, Science & Environment

Utah’s Mining Industry Saw Modest Growth In 2019, UGS Reports

An aerial view of a large open-pit mine, ringed by snow capped mountains.
Courtesy of Doc Searls and Wikimedia Commons
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Located in the Oquirrh Mountains southwest of Salt Lake City, the Bingham Canyon Mine is the deepest open-pit mine in the world. It represents 85% of Utah’s metal production value.

Utah’s mining production increased by $92 million — or 2.4% — last year, according to an annual report released by the Utah Geological Survey this fall.

Metal extraction made up just over half of the state’s nearly $4 billion mining industry, and copper was the state’s most valuable metal commodity, the report found.

Lead author Stephanie Mills said production upticks like one the Utah saw last year boil down to two variables: either the value of mining commodities have gone up or the industry’s simply mined more of it. And in this case, it was the latter.

Certain commodities, such as gold, had a particularly strong year in 2019 — a trend Mills said has continued through 2020.

“Right when the pandemic kicked in, the price of gold took off,” Mills said. “As the stock market stabilized, gold continued to remain high because we are in an election year. Any kind of political instability— every election year — always drives gold prices higher.”

Another key factor was a list of 35 minerals deemed critical for national security and defense, which the Department of the Interior released in 2018. Mill said that kicked off a flurry of exploration for ones found in Utah, which include palladium, lithium, cobalt and beryllium.

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