Natural gas is Wyoming’s most important mineral. The state has large reserves of gas, but they are located in pockets deep underground. Rising gas prices in the early 2000s led the U.S. government to increase the number of permits issued for gas exploration on federal lands in Wyoming. Found with the natural gas is helium, of which the state is also a major producer.
Coal is the state’s second most important mineral by value. Extensive coal reserves underlie one-half of the state, and Wyoming’s coal contains little sulfur, which makes it desirable as a low-polluting coal fuel. Nearly all the state’s coal is strip-mined. Campbell and Carbon counties are by far the leading coal producers.
The value of petroleum extracted in Wyoming had declined by the mid-1990s to less than one-half the value pumped in the mid-1980s. Although petroleum production began to rise again in the 2000s, it remained below the 1980 levels. Most of the state’s 23 counties produce some oil or natural gas.
Valuable nonfuel minerals include sodium carbonate (soda ash), used primarily in the manufacture of glass; bentonite, a type of clay used in drilling oil wells; and helium gas. Wyoming is the nation’s leading producer of both sodium carbonate-bicarbonate and bentonite. The bentonite is mined mainly in Crook County and in the Bighorn Basin. Other important minerals are gemstones, particularly diamonds, and construction stone, including limestone and marble.
Wyoming has larger uranium reserves than any other state, and uranium mining was important through the 1970s. In the early 1980s, however, uranium production virtually ceased because of the slump in the nuclear energy industry caused by the public outcry over the high cost of building nuclear power plants and the hazards involved in operating them. Increased production became likely in the 2000s as a result of rising uranium prices.
Manufacturing plays a relatively minor role in the Wyoming economy. The leading industries, ranked by the value added by manufacturing, are the chemical industries, fabricated metals, petroleum and coal, food products, and nonmetallic minerals. Casper, because of its oil refineries, is the state’s leading industrial center. Although Wyoming experienced some industrial expansion in the second half of the 20th century, the state is primarily a supplier of raw materials for industries based in other states. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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