Salt Lake County Utah Gold Production

Posted July 16, 2009 in Gold Mining


Click here for the Principle Gold Producing Districts of the United States Index

Salt Lake County, in north-central Utah, is bounded on the northwest by the Great Salt Lake, on the east by the Wasatch Mountains, on the south by the Traverse Mountains, and on the west by the northern part of the Oquirrh Range. It is distinguished politically by Salt Lake City, the State capital, and economically by Bingham, the most productive mining district in the State.

Most of the 10,651,000 ounces of gold produced through 1959 came from this district; about 30,000 ounces came from the Cottonwood district.

Soldiers, attached to the California Volunteers under Gen. P. E. Connor, arrived in Utah in 1862 and established Camp Douglas, overlooking Salt Lake City. Many of the men, who were prospectors and had experienced the gold fever in California, began prospecting the ranges near Salt Lake City. The first mineral locations were made in Bingham Canyon in September 1863; other discoveries followed rapidly. Gold placers also were mined in Bingham Canyon in 1865 and within a few years had yielded about $1 million in gold (48,379 ounces). They were the only important placer-gold producers in the State (Butler and others, 1920, p. 118, 340).

Ore deposits were discovered in the Little Cottonwood camp near Alta in 1865 and in the Big Cottonwood camp in 1868 or 1869 (V. C. Heikes, in Calkins and Butler, 1943, p. 71-72, 77).

The Bingham (West Mountain) district, about 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City on the east slope of the Oquirrh Range, is the leading mining district in Utah and is one of the major copper districts in the United States. It is also the fourth largest gold producer in the United States; its total production through 1959 was about 10,610,000 ounces. In addition to copper its chief commodity - and gold, large amounts of lead, zinc, silver, and molybdenum have been produced from the district.

One of the major stimuli to early prospecting in this region was Gen. P. E. Connor, who was in charge of the Third California Infantry stationed at Camp Douglas near Salt Lake City in 1862. Many of the troops had previous mining experience in California and were encouraged by General Connor to search for mineral deposits. By September 1863, they found outcrops of lead carbonate in Bingham Canyon. This was formally located as the West Jordan claim, and in December 1863 the West Mountain district was formed. Handicapped by lack of transportation facilities and suitable reduction plants, the miners made little progress. In 1864, however, placers were found in Bingham Canyon, and these yielded $1 million in gold by 1871 and an additional $500,000 in later years. The completion of rail facilities to Bingham by 1873 removed the major obstacle to exploiting the lodes (Boutwell, 1905, p. 81-85).

Lead and silver were the principal products of the district until the financial depression of 1893, when the price of silver dropped. Interest turned to copper deposits that previously were considered too low-grade to be mined. Experiments for treating low-grade copper ore were undertaken at the Highland Boy mine in 1896, and exploration revealed large pyritic copper ore bodies. Elsewhere in the district several mills were built to treat disseminated copper deposits in monzonite. After several years of experimentation, exploration, and consolidation of properties, large-scale mining of the disseminated copper deposits was begun in 1907 by the Utah Copper Co. (Boutwell, 1935, p. 349). Mining continued at an increased rate. In 1936 the Utah Copper Co. was absorbed by Kennecott Copper Corp., and Kennecott became the major producer in the district. The large-scale exploitation of the disseminated copper deposits, which continued through 1959, is responsible for Bingham's status in the mining industry.

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Related Towns:

Bingham Alta

Did You Know.......

A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.
-Mark Twain


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