Through the early years of mining in Utah, mining had little general effect upon the economy of the state. From 1869 to 1940 ores were smelted and directly exported. From 1940 on, however, the processing of industrial metals and nonmetallic minerals to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Western states made mining a more integral part of Utah’s economy.
Copper is the most important mineral by value produced in the state, and Utah is the second leading copper producer in the United States, after Arizona. Almost all the copper is mined at Bingham Canyon, southwest of Salt Lake City, at one of the world’s largest open-pit mines. Enough precious metals are obtained as byproducts here to help place Utah among the country’s major producers of gold, silver, and molybdenum.
The expansion of coal production in the Colorado Plateau—and of petroleum in the Uinta Basin and other, smaller fields—has increased the state’s mining revenues. Coal is used to fuel many of the state’s electric power plants and also as a raw material for the manufacture of plastics and other synthetic substances. Most of the state’s petroleum is produced in the eastern part of the state, particularly in the area east of Provo.
Salt and other minerals are obtained by evaporation along the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Magnesium, stone, sand and gravel, cement, clays, beryllium concentrates, mercury, potash, phosphate rock, lime, and bentonite are also produced in commercial quantities.
Utah’s most important manufacturing activity, in terms of the income it generates, is the production of primary metals, mainly at blast furnaces, and of fabricated metals. Copper ore is smelted in facilities north of Bingham Canyon. Other leading manufacturing sectors in Utah are computers and electronic equipment, food products, and transportation equipment. Attracted by the region’s excellent transportation and relatively low cost of living, a number of high-technology firms have opened facilities in the Salt Lake City area. Flour mills, dairies, and meat-packing plants located near the major farming districts process Utah’s agricultural bounty. The leading employers in the transportation sector are companies engaged in construction of rocket propulsion units, aircraft parts, and motor vehicle parts. The chemical industry, principally the manufacture of drugs, also ranks high in manufacturing value. Instrument manufacturers, making such items as surgical tools and medical equipment, also make a sizable contribution to the state’s economy.
Most of the factories are located in the area between Brigham City and Provo, with the heaviest concentration near Salt Lake City. Defense industries developed since the late 1950s include the production of solid-fuel propellants for missiles and rockets, jet engines, computer components, and navigational systems. Recently, the Wasatch Front has become a national leader in the production of computer chips, software, graphics, and network technologies. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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