Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

Mining and Its Successes

By Horace Dunbar

Contained within the States of Utah, Idaho and Nevada is a vast mineral empire, whose resources, imperfectly demonstrated as they are in proportion to the possibilities, are as abundant and varied as could be found in any three of the richest and more thoroughly developed States of the Union.

Although mining has been carried on in these three States for many years, there was an extremely wide field to be covered, and it was a field which sorely tried, but never daunted, the hardy pioneer. Lack of proper transportation facilities, of adequate mine equipment, of a ready market for the product of the mines and the doleful scarcity of nature's great boons to mankind food and water all have combined to retard the proper exploitation of this immense storehouse of mineral wealth. And even at this late day, when one wonders if there really is any pioneering possible in the West, a person does not need to go far beyond the railroad tracks to find himself in a wilderness of opportunity untouched and unclaimed by the hand of man, and equally in a wilderness where all the comforts of life are wanting.

Gold, silver, copper and lead comprise the main mineral production of Utah, Idaho and Nevada. In the early days Nevada was dotted from one end to another with silver camps. Utah witnessed the climb and fall of innumerable gold and silver districts which had made most honorable history for the "West, and Idaho as well has suffered in many spots from declines in mining. The hardships of early mining were responsible for this. There are numerous camps of the West holding mining properties equipped with extensive and expensive machinery. Much of this machinery was brought round the Horn by sailing vessels, thence transported across the deserts by ox teams at a cost of eight cents per pound. The nearest smelter was in Swansea, Wales, and quite naturally only the highest grade ore could be mined and marketed. When silver began receiving death blows at the hands of the governments of the world all the famous camps were abandoned, and not until recent years has capital entered into what at one time were scenes of extensive mining operations which were productive of countless millions of dollars, which formed the foundation for the majority of the greatest fortunes of the United States.

On investigation it was found that all the old camps were teeming with ores developed by the early operators, but whose comparatively modest metallic contents precluded sale under former conditions. Modern metallurgical knowledge and newly installed reduction works brought these resources into instant availability, and the rejuvenation of abandoned camps began on all sides. The early operator also recognized only a few formations which he knew were productive of the sort of mineral results he desired. Today geological formations which he despised are producing returns which surpass results the old-timer achieved.

Instead of equipping individual mines with their own reduction works, capital wisely centered its energies on selecting a central point where smelting operations could be carried on in a manner equally beneficial to all. This policy gave to Salt Lake City the distinction of being the smelting center of the United States. Within sight of the city the American Smelting and Refining Company, the United States Smelting, Refining and Mining Company, the Utah Consolidated Company, the Bingham Consolidated Company, and the Yampa Company, all were operating smelting plants up to 1907.

In answer to litigation instigated by the farming element in the Salt Lake valley, the courts closed practically all these plants late in the year mentioned. It was asserted that the fumes from the stacks destroyed vegetation and animal life. This necessitated improved devices to prevent smelting operations from injuring the surrounding farm usefulness, and right successfully have the smelting companies met the issue. Out of the wrecks have risen new smelters, until to-day, early in 1909, the American Company at Murray is operating a lead-silver smelter, and one of the greatest copper smelters in the world at Garfield, on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, near Salt Lake City. The United States Company is smelting silver and lead ores at Bingham Junction. The Yampa Company is treating its own ores at Bingham, and in Tooele County, near the Great Salt Lake, the International Smelting and Refining Company is spending millions of dollars in rushing to completion one of the largest and most modern copper smelters in the world. In addition, there is a silver-lead-copper smelter in Tintic, Utah, and a copper smelter at Ogden.

Among the old camps once famous, and now revived to tremendous activity and success are Bingham, Utah, and Ely, Nevada, both copper camps of magnitude. In each camp huge mountains of low-grade copper ore are being eaten down by scores of steam shovels, the ore being hurried via special railroad lines to mammoth concentrating plants, where the low-grade porphyry ore is concentrated to a grade which admits of profitable smelting. Pioche, Nevada, a one-time richly productive silver-lead camp, today is answering the call of capital with splendid ore developments, while in all the three States new camps spring up from day to day, which illustrates how imperfectly the field has been covered.

Idaho stands out distinctively as one of the great lead-producing States of the Union, the Coeur d'Alene district being the most famed lead camp in the world. Unlike most lead camps, whose heavy metal values give way at depth to copper or some other metal, nothing but lead, and in ever increasing quantities, has been found with the deepest of work. Nevada during the past five years has astonished the world with its discoveries of new gold fields, following closely on which finds have been the extensive and successful development of silver, lead and copper camps.

Utah Copper Mill

The following statistics will show the mineral standing of the three States, the figures being taken from the year 1907, owing to the incomplete statistical record for 1908:

In 1907 Utah stood fifth in rank of the gold-producing States of the Union, producing 247,758 ounces value, $5,121,600; second in silver production, with an output of 11,406,900 ounces value, $7,528,500; third in lead production, with an output of 54,738 tons; fourth in copper, with an output of 68,333,115 pounds.

Idaho ranked ninth in gold, with an output of 60,754 ounces value, $1,255,900; fifth in silver, with an output of 7,888,400 ounces value, $5,206,300; second in lead, with an output of 111,697 tons; seventh in copper, with an output of 11,471,101 pounds.

Nevada ranks fourth in gold, with an output of 745,507 ounces value, $15,411,000; fourth in silver, with an output of 8,280,500 ounces -value, $5,465,100; sixth in lead, with an output of 3,400 tons; eleventh in copper, with an output of 1,462,450 pounds.

The first large, low-grade, low-cost copper producer of Utah to emphasize its merits by entering the dividend-paying column was the Utah Copper Company of Bingham. Following closely on its heels is the Boston Consolidated Company, with the Ohio Copper Company on the verge of operations in its new milling plant. These great mines are just coming into their own, and the year 1909 should find the copper output for Utah reaching well above the 100,000,000-pound mark. Throughout the State are numerous new copper camps which are developing fast, and vast sections are known to exist where nothing but the wise application of capital will open red metal mines of magnitude.

In Ely, Nevada has one of the mammoth low-grade copper camps of the world, and gigantic concentrating plants and smelters near the mines are now in highly successful operation. The next extensive copper camp of Nevada is known as the Yerington District, but legally named the Mason Mining District. Yerington, unlike Bingham and Ely, contains straight smelting copper ores which require no preliminary treatment before they are fit for the smelter furnaces. This dispenses with the installation of expensive concentrating mills, taking less capital to reach the coveted goal of production. Other copper sections of Nevada are being brought prominently to the attention of the world, and that there are other Elys and Binghams in the two States is demonstrated by the liberal expenditures of money now seen on all sides. Recent developments in heretofore untouched portions of Idaho prove that an enormous field awaits the activities of the prospector and investor in its mineral-ribbed mountains. New railroads and new wagon roads continually are being built to sections which once were inaccessible.

In addition to their wealth of mineral deposits, the hills of Utah are seamed with high-grade coal, another undeveloped field which needs only the magic hand of capital to add millions each year to the output of the State. Regarding the coal deposits of Utah, the seventh report of the Bureau of Statistics of the State of Utah, for 1907-1908, uses the following language:

Kearns Building, Salt Lake City

"The coal-mining industry as reported by Mr. Petitt, State Coal Mine Inspector, is in a most thriving condition, due in a great measure to the settled labor conditions which have been maintained in the various mining camps for the past few years. The production has increased in quantity and value during the past five years. There is, however, much room for improvement in these respects, more particularly when one considers the enormous extent of the coal areas of the State.

"The coal area known as the Book Cliff (Wasatch field), extending" east and west from Castle Dale, in Carbon County, to the Colorado line, and south to the southeastern part of Sevier County, covering approximately 1,600 square miles, is considered both in respect to thickness and development the most important coal field in the State. Other coal areas are: The Coalville or Weber River field in Summit County; in the northeastern portion of the State, the Henry's Fork and Ashley Creek coal area; large coal areas in Uintah County; the Henry Mountain District, and in the southwestern portion of the State the Colob plateau, showing the wide distribution of coal lands in the State. ''

In eastern Utah lies one of the most valuable and extensive hydro-carbon deposits in the world. One of the principal products from this seldom-mentioned field is asphaltum, while from these deposits are made paints, mineral rubber, medicines and numerous other materials which find their way into the world's commerce.

Oil of the finest quality, and in a sufficient quantity to justify the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, is being developed in San Juan County, Utah, while the Virgin field in southern Utah gives promise of becoming an important oil center of the West.

The "Mining World" of Chicago, in its issue of April 3, 1909, gives the names of forty-one dividend-paying mining companies in Utah; twenty-five in Nevada and seven in Idaho. In the Silver King Coalition Mines Syndicate of Park City, Utah, the State during the first quarter of 1909 held the greatest silver-lead dividend-paying company in this hemisphere. Considerably over one hundred millions of dollars have been distributed to stockholders in the shape of dividends by Utah mining companies since any record was taken, which excludes close corporations not giving to the world their profit sharing.

In spite of the great production of the three States which compose this empire, and in spite of the many new fields continually springing into fame, a virgin territory awaits the man of money and brains within their boundary lines. New problems confront the mining and metallurgical engineer, offering a remunerative opening for numerous experts from year to year, which cannot help but attract the young and ambitious the world over. These States are merely in the bud, and present an ideal opportunity for safe and constant investment.


Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 



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