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A History of Uranium Production in Utah
Radioactive deposits in Utah have been exploited since 1900. Radium for medical purposes, was first sought, followed by vanadium for steel making. Beginning in 1943, uranium was needed for atomic weapons, by the mid 1960s the use had switched to the generation of electric power. The greatest amount of mining was during 1948-1970 when the uranium procurement programs of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission were in effect. In 1952 a large, high grade, unoxidized deposit in the basal Chinle Formation was discovered on the southwestern flank of the Lisbon Valley anticline. Additional deposits were discovered in the Lisbon Valley area which became Utah’s largest uranium producing area. During the time of the AEC’s program, mines in Utah produced 12,438,884 tons of ore averaging 0.32% U3O8 and containing 79,372,220 pounds of U3O8.
A second boom occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the need of uranium for nuclear power plants increased. The boom was short-lived due to over production and the lack of acceptance of nuclear power by the general public. Ore production in Utah as been declining since 1983. Current (1990) production is principally for vanadium with by-product uranium. Since 1948, mines and a uranium recovery plant at the Bingham Canyon copper mine have produced nearly 120 million pounds of U3O8. Developed ore reserves remain at many properties and the potential to discover additional deposits is good. Higher uranium prices and a strong market are needed for uranium mining to increase in Utah.
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