Utah's Iron Ore Industry
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This page was last updated on July 21, 2015.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
From Utah Mining Association's August 1967 "Operations and Economic Review":
Iron ore was first discovered by an exploration party headed by Parley P. Pratt in 1849-50. A crude foundry was built by the pioneers at New Harmony in 1852 and began producing in 1853. It was soon abandoned. The ore deposits remained undeveloped because of distance from markets, transportation difficulties and lack of adequate treatment plants in the West. The Iron Springs district was organized in 1871 and reorganized, 1879. The Pinto district was organized in 1868, a few miles southwest of Iron Springs. A crude furnace and foundry were erected by the Great Western Milling & Mining Co. in 1868. They produced about 400 tons of pig iron before closing in 1876 or 1877.
The Ironton blast furnace of Columbia Steel Corporation (purchased by the U.S. Steel Corporation in 1930) near Springville and the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad's Iron Mountain-to-Cedar City branch line were completed in 1923-24, and commercial scale mining of the Iron Mountain deposits began. The Columbia Steel Corp.'s operations were the first to successfully use coke made from Utah coal. The U.S. Defense Plant Corporation built the Geneva Steel plant in Utah County during the 1942-44 period, and the Iron County ore reserves assumed new importance. The plant was taken over by U.S. Steel Corp. in 1946. Although Iron County's iron ore production has decreased since U.S. Steel began shipping pelletized iron ore to the Geneva Works from Atlantic City, Wyoming a few years ago, the output is still sufficient to give Utah fourth place in the ranking of iron-producing states.
Large areas in the southern part of the county are underlain with iron deposits. Most of the good commercial grade ore occurs in disconnected masses in a belt about 20 miles long and 1-1/8 miles wide, stretching from northeast to southwest along the eastern and southern slopes of Three Peaks, Granite Mountain and Iron Mountain. Bureau of Mines experts in 1957 estimated the Iron Mountain area reserves at 350,000,000 tons. Of this total, 100 million tons was classified as recoverable at this time, and the Bureau predicted greater reserves of high grade ore at deeper levels. Efficient mining and low cost concentration will be required to develop the remaining 250 million tons. The richest discoveries have been made in the Iron Springs, Iron Mountain and Pinto districts and in these localities there has been the heaviest production.
All-time output to 1965 was 72,273,000 tons. The U. S. Steel Corp. mines its own iron ore for shipment to the Geneva plant in Utah County. The CF&I Steel Corp. properties furnish ore for the Pueblo, Colo. steel plant of CF&I, the actual mining being done by the Utah Construction & Mining Co. Utah Construction also has its own Iron County properties from which it ships ore to Geneva Works in Utah, to Pueblo, Colo., to Kaiser Steel Company's Fontana, California plant and sometimes to foreign countries. Utah Construction completed a $1,300,000 plant at its Iron Springs open pit mine for upgrading the low grade ores of the area. Some iron ore and concentrates are shipped to cement plants in Utah, Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, where it is used to impart special properties to cement.
Mark Hemphill wrote the following about this photo:
Columbia Steel Co.-Iron Mountain P.17 -- Utah Division of State History Digital Collections
Until Atlantic City opened in 1963, the Iron Springs Mining District at Iron Mountain, Utah, was the only source of iron ore for Columbia Steel at Ironton, and the Defense Plant Corporation (U.S Steel after WWII) Geneva Works. Ironton was immediately south of Provo. The Provo Yard leads today run past the site.
The Ironton plant ran from 1924 to 1966. It produced only pig iron; it had no blast furnaces and no rolling mills. Its original role was to provide pig iron to Columbia Steel's blast furnaces at Pittsburg, California. Later it provided pig to Geneva, as well as to Kaiser Steel.
Both UP and D&RGW served Columbia Steel at Ironton, and both Santa Fe and SP served Columbia Steel at Pittsburg, so in theory it could have had the following routings:
My bet is that UP-SP had most of the pig iron traffic. Though rates would have been identical either way, the UP-SP service would probably have been better. But I would not be surprised to see it moving on multiple routes at the same time, or varying back and forth, as one railroad provided better cars and service then lost interest, and so forth.
Here's a couple of useful photos that might help:
The first shows cold pig being loaded from stockpile into a UP GS gon:
The second shows hot pig going direct from the pig machine into UP GS gons:
Columbia Steel at Pittsburg had a capacity in 1938 of 229,000 tons/year of open-hearth steel. The open-hearth charge was probably 45% pig iron and 55% scrap, so 2,151 50-ton carloads of pig iron a year would be required, when the mill was running full-out. Or about 6 cars a day.
Photo of UP ORE-70-2 no. 26109 -- at RRPictureArchives.net
Photo of UP ORE-70-2 no. 8000 -- lifted from The Streamliner, Fall 1994
[scroll to the bottom for current events]
Iron ore was discovered in the southern part of the territory in 1850, by Parley P. Pratt, and steps were immediately taken to develop the industry. In his message to the legislature of the State of Deseret on December 2, 1850, Brigham Young called attention to the discovery of iron ore and urged an appropriation to aid in its development. On December 3, 1850, Iron County was organized (Journal History, December 3, 1850). The Cedar City Iron Company was organized and was making some progress, but was short of capital and workers. The Deseret Iron Company was formed in Liverpool, England, early in 1852. Iron was actually produced in the fall of 1852; but due to high costs, Indian depredations and floods, the experiments finally had to be acknowledged a failure in 1857 - one which had cost the territorial government about $150,000. (Anna Viola Lewis, "Development of Mining in Utah", unpublished Master's thesis, Department of History, University of Utah, 1941, p. 25.)
At the last spike ceremony for Utah's first railroad, the Utah Central, on January 10, 1870, both the mallet and the last spike itself was made of Utah iron, by James Lawson at the LDS church's blacksmith shop. The spike was so highly polished that it appeared as silver. "The mallet was elegantly cased, bearing on the top an engraved beehive surrounded by the inscription, 'Holiness to the Lord,' and underneath the beehive were the letters U.C.R.R.; a similar insignia consecrated the spike." (Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 10, page 142)
In September 1873, the iron ore mines of Iron County were the stated destination of the Iron Mountain and Utah Valley Railroad. Its stated route was 273 miles from Iron City, north to a connection with Utah Southern, whose line from Salt Lake City was by September 1873, at American Fork, at the northern end of Utah Valley. The line was not built. (Utah Corporation Index 4292)
Although the Utah iron mines were producing iron ore for local use, transportation of the iron ore from the south to the northern cities was a factor in it not being used. Importing iron ore from the east was still less expensive, as shown by a traffic report for the Utah Central from March 1874, which showed that just over 273 tons of iron ore was imported during that month. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 10, page 144) This would have been over Utah Central's route between Salt Lake City and Ogden, because the rail line south from Salt Lake City to Utah Valley was by way of the Utah Southern Railroad, which by December 1874 had been completed between Salt Lake City and Spanish Fork, at the southern end of Utah Valley.
27 January 1875
"The Utah Western Railroad Company is about to commence the manufacture of ten flat cars." The iron parts to be cast of Utah iron, and Utah lumber to be used also. (Deseret Evening News, 27 January 1875)
The rails of Utah Southern Extension Railroad were completed to the Horn silver mine at Frisco on June 23, 1880, just 60 miles north of Iron Mountain. The Utah Southern Railroad Extension was an 1879 extension of the Utah Southern Railroad, and was controlled by Union Pacific, which very soon also took control of both Utah Central and Utah Southern. In 1881, UP consolidated its control of its Utah railroads under the new Utah Central Railway, which combined the routes of Utah Central Railroad, Utah Southern Railroad, and Utah Southern Railroad Extension.
During 1881, access to the iron mines of Iron County played a part in the larger picture of railroad development in Southern Utah. Two out-of-state railroads, the Atlantic and Pacific, and the Texas and Pacific, each announced plans to connect with a third road, California Central, that was planning to build across Nevada to connect with the other roads along the Utah-Nevada line, northwest of Cedar City. Railroad officials in Utah, including John Sharp, commenced talks with the California road to bypass the plans of the "foreign" roads and instead, make their connection with the Utah Central Railway, already building south from Utah Valley to serve the silver mines near Frisco. On August 23, 1881, the Utah Central plans were formalized with the organization of the California Central, Utah Division, with a specific stated goal of the iron mines and coal mines of Iron County, and a connection with Utah Central. On January 20, 1882, Utah Central amended its own incorporation papers to include a route to the mines in Iron County. (Reeder, page 403, which includes a citation of Salt Lake Herald, September 17 and 22, 1881)
According to H. H. Bancroft's 1886 History of Utah, in 1883 Utah's foundries and machine-shops produced an estimated $360,000 in iron products, being second only to the territory's flour and grist mills. He also estimated that with suitable and abundant fuel, there would probably be no state west of the Missouri with better facilities than Utah for the production of iron. (Bancroft, page 735)
January 7, 1884
"Moving a Railroad." "Bishop Thomas Taylor, superintendent of the Utah Iron Manufacturing Company, is about to commence the work of removing to Iron City, in this territory, the rails, ties, rolling stock, etc., of the Nevada Central Railroad, which the company he represents recently purchased. The manner of moving the plant will be as follows: the workmen will first move the track and materials in Pioche down to Delmoi's (Delmues) ranch, then they will remove the track from the Bullionville end up to the same place, then all the material will be removed to Iron City. It is the intention at present to take up and relay the track as they go on. Before they arrive halfway to their destination, says the Pioche Record, it is safe to predict that they will give up this method of removing the road." (Salt Lake Evening Chronicle, January 7, 1884)
In 1884, it was reported that the greatest use of iron ore was for the use as flux in the smelting of precious metals in the territory. The Utah Gazetteer for 1884 noted that the Salt Lake and Western Railway was built to transport both precious metal ores from the Tintic area and other mines in western Utah, and iron ores for smelter fluxing purposes; low grade iron ore deposits having been discovered in the Tintic mining district. This line was constructed in 1882 as a standard gauge branchline of Union Pacific. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 10, page 164)
By 1886, H. H. Bancroft noted that the importing of iron ore into Utah had "now practically ceased", and that shipment of iron ore and charcoal "at one time were important factors in the imports." This was most likely a direct benefit of the completion of the Utah Southern's (later Utah Central's) line to Milford, then west to the silver mine at Frisco, just 60 miles to the north of Iron Mountain. Transporting iron ore north to the smelters would have been by wagon to Milford, then by Utah Central trains for the remaining 226 miles to Salt Lake City.
In March 1889, Utah Central Railway amended its corporate papers to include a branch to Iron County, with Summit given as the name of the new southern terminus. Also, a line to the Kanarra coal fields in Iron County was added as another extension into Iron County. Neither extension was built.
Railroad service came closer to Iron Mountain with the completion of the Utah and Pacific Railroad in 1899 between Milford and Uvada on the Utah/Nevada state line. In January 1899, the road reached what they called "Cedar City Junction", just 25 miles from Cedar City. The name was soon changed from Cedar City Junction, to Lund. (More information about Utah & Pacific Railroad)
In April 1901, the Utah & Pacific was sold to Union Pacific's Oregon Short Line subsidiary.
In 1902-1903 a battle of corporate titans ensued as a new railroad line backed by Senator William Clark, with a route from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, reached southern Nevada. The Utah and Pacific was part of a competing line backed by E. H. Harriman that was to build south across Nevada to Los Angeles. The settlement in 1903 between the two companies resulted in Clark's San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad being built along the contested route, and taking ownership of the line north to Salt Lake City, but with Harriman owning 50 percent of the Clark road.
Rio Grande Western announced that it was preparing to build into the iron fields of Iron County from the southern end of its Marysvale Branch, at Marysvale, including seventy miles of railroad to be constructed "this year". (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 5, number 1, April 15, 1903, p.25)
Union Pacific's line between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City was completed in May 1905, but the nearest railroad service for Cedar City and Iron Mountain remained at Lund on the old Utah and Pacific line, 25 miles northwest of Cedar City.
There was an article with description of the survey of the Iron Mountain, St. George & Grand Canyon Railroad. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 12, number 7, July 15, 1910, p.20)
In 1918, in one of the first indications of commercial development of the iron resources in the Cedar City area, there was a news item about surveyors of Colorado Fuel & Iron Company being at work in the vicinity of Cedar City, Utah. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 20, number 6, June 30, 1918, p.38, "Mine, Mill and General News")
"New Railroad in Iron County", article about a new line between Lund and Cedar City to serve the Old Capital Petroleum Fuel & Iron Company. Organizers included A. Meeker, Jr., president and J. J. McClellan, secretary treasurer. Directors included Dr. C. F. Wilcox, Dr. E. D. Woodruff, and George W. Morgan. J. U. Eldredge was general manager. Contractor was to be Hanover Construction of Philadelphia. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 20, number 24, March 30, 1919, p.23)
Commercial production began in the 1920s with the opening of the Deseret Mound pit for Columbia Steel Company, which also initiated a railroad by the name of Iron County Railway to move iron ore from its Iron County iron mines to its new iron mill at ironton, near Springville. At the same time, Columbia Steel organized the Carbon County Railway to move coal from Carbon County coal mines to the Ironton mill.
Columbia Steel received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to construct a subsidiary called the Carbon County Railway. At the same time they withdrew their application to build another subsidiary called the Iron County Railway which was to be constructed from Lund, on the Union Pacific, to their iron ore properties in Iron County. The steel company withdrew their application based on the Union Pacific's protest in which Union Pacific stated that they were intending to construct the Cedar City Branch. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 577)
The iron ore bodies in Iron County had been discovered in the early 1850s by Mormon pioneers. The particular deposits near Iron Mountain were first located in the 1870s but by the 1920s had not yet been commercially worked. The mines were to be developed to furnish ore for the new Columbia Steel Company's new iron mill that was being constructed near Springville. The actual mining was done by the steel company's subsidiary Columbia Iron Mining Company, and also by the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company to supply its mill in Pueblo, Colorado. Columbia's iron mill near Springville, called Ironton, went into production on May 1, 1924, producing pig iron. The construction of the Cedar City Branch also included the 4.5-mile Iron Mountain Branch to Desert Mound, which left the Cedar City Branch at Iron Springs (Mile Post 20.28).
While the Carbon County Railway was indeed built (operation began on July 5, 1923), the plans for the Iron County Railway were set aside when Union Pacific announced that they were building a branchline through the same territory. This was UP's Cedar City Branch, which began operation in December 1923.
October 18, 1922
LA&SL received ICC approval to construct the 32.5-mile Cedar City Branch. To be completed by December 31, 1923. (ICC Finance Docket 2527) (The branch was to be constructed to serve the developing iron ore mines in the district west of Cedar City.)
June 26, 1923
UP's Cedar City Branch was officially opened, including a ceremony presided over by U. S. President Warren G. Harding, who arrived by special train. Harding died on August 2, 1923. (Signor, LA&SL, page 94) (see also this additional source)
Utah Iron Ore Company was organized on December 24, 1923. (corporation file)
Columbia Steel's mine at Iron Mountain was producing 600 tons of iron ore per day, with plans to increase production to 1000 tons per day by April 20th. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 17, 1924)
"The Columbia Steel Corporation, San Francisco, Cal., has acquired iron ore properties at Iron Mountain, Utah, heretofore held by tbe Milner-Dear-Leach Company, totaling more than 900 acres, and plans for extensive developments in the near future." (Blast Furnace & Steel Plant, Volume 13, Number 12, December 1925, page 505, "The Open Hearth")
UP's Iron Mountain Branch
The following comes from the Iron County Record, January 18, 1924:
Construction of another branch railroad line to tap another vast deposit of Utah's iron is seen in the announcement by the Milner corporation of Salt Lake of the sale of $250,000 in bonds to Stephens & Company of California. Proceeds of the bond issue will be used in part for construction of three and one-half one miles of line from the present branch of the Union Pacific from Lund to Cedar City, to the Desert Mound iron holdings of the Milner corporation in southern Utah.
The corporation has contracts with the United States Smelting & Refining company and the International Smelting company calling for a minimum of 72,000 tons of iron ore annually to be used for fluxing purposes.
It is expected that construction of the new branch will be started immediately and that the mines will be shipping iron ore as soon as transportation facilities permit. In the letter announcing the bond issue A. C. Milner, president of the corporation says, in part:
"The corporation owns 527 acres of patented iron ore lands in the Iron Springs district - with known iron ore reserves estimated at 16,000,000 tons within a depth of 100 feet. Engineering tests show ore to extend to a depth in excess of 340 feet. Steel companies operating in this vicinity are using similar ore for which they are paying a royalty basis of 35 cents per ton in the ground. In as much as the Desert Mound ore is surface ore it can be extracted and loaded on cars by a single steam shovel operation at a very low cost.
May 1, 1924
Columbia Steel Corporation's Ironton plant began operations. Between 1924 and 1934, the plant produced: 1,189,598 tons of pig iron; 825,574 tons of coke; 44,702 tons of sulfate of ammonia; and 35,939 tons of benzol. The pig iron produced at the plant is shipped to plants in Pittsburg and Torrance, California. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 1658, concerning Salt Lake & Utah Railroad's request in 1934 to increase freight rates)
May 21, 1924
A new rail spur, 3.6 miles long, was to be completed south from Iron Springs to a new station to be known as Desert Mound, the site of the iron ore deposits of the Utah Iron Ore Corporation, situated on 527 acres owned by the Milner Corporation. Construction was to begin "immediately," and be completed by July 1st. The Utah Iron Ore properties are about two miles from the Columbia Steel properties. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 21, 1924)
Grading for the new spur to the Milner iron properties began in June 1924, with the four-mile branchline set to be completed "before the middle of July." The line is being built by the Utah Iron Ore Corporation, which has leased the Milner property, and already has contracts to furnish iron ore for fluxing purposes to several smelting companies. (Davis County Clipper, June 20, 1924)
"The Utah Iron Mines Corporation, operating at the Desert Mound, is spending approximately $5,000 monthly for labor. Now that the R. R. spur has been completed to the Mound, the stripping of the ore completed, shipping will soon commence which will necessitate the employment of fifty or more men. This will increase the payroll considerably." (Iron County Record, July 18, 1924, page 5, "Local News")
"The Desert Mound Spur leading to Milner Mines was completed Saturday, July 12th. This track laid with substantial material to support the largest locomotives and tonnage will be ballasted this week. Stripping of the deposits is well advanced and mining will proceed under open-cut method about August 1st., when heavy output is expected. The camp takes on an air of encouraging activity complete In every department. Clarence Milner who has been on the ground day and night for several months with commendable zeal; should be congratulated on the business like aspects of the surround-inn. Advancement of the Union Pacific Railroad into the heart of the Iron Belt wilt add a distinctive value to every contiguous claim and affords to all old timers who for more than twenty years, with patience and fortitude, have fulfilled all obligations necessary to sustain legal titles to their prospects." (Iron County Record, July 18, 1924, page 1)
Utah Iron Ore Corporation began shipping ore. (Iron County Record, August 8, 1924, page 2, "Iron Springs Notes")
The initial shipments of iron ore to serve as flux ore for the smelters was apparently from readily available surface deposits. Production was halted to allow more ore to be exposed by stripping the overburden, and by mid to late December 1924, iron ore shipments were again taking place. (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 30, 1924, page 13)
By April 1925, Utah Iron Ore Corporation was shipping 300 tons daily to the northern smelters. Demand had increased, compelling the company to strip a larger area of overburden so that 500 tons daily can be produced. (Iron County Record, April 10, 1925)
Utah Iron Ore Corporation announced that the company would install twin crushers at Desert Mound with a combined capacity of 900 tons per day. One of the crushers was to be completed in April and would have a daily capacity of 350 tons. (Iron County Record, January 8, 1926, page 1)
"Iron Ore Production by Utah Iron Ore Corporation...", with photographs of the loading tipple at Desert Mound, Utah. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 28, number 8, July 30, 1926, p.9)
"About 40 men were busily engaged stripping, drilling, operating steam and electric shovels, dumping ore, watching crushers, conveyors, and grading machines, laying track, and loading railroad cars with the crushed raw ore to be shipped to northern Utah points. The stripping of the overbearing of the ore is a mammoth job, there being about 35 feet of limestone that must be removed before the mining of the ore can take place. At present something like 700 tons of raw ore are mined daily, but after the completion of the stripping now in progress three or four times that number of tons can be mined each day with the force of men now employed." (Iron County Record, February 25, 1927, page 1, "Progressing Smoothly")
L. F. Rains of the Columbia Steel Company announced that his company had taken over the holdings of the Burke Iron Company, which were located 11 miles from the Columbia company's Desert Mound property. (Iron County Record, July 6, 1928, page 8, "Steel Firm Gets Iron Ore Option") (ed. note: This would be the first indication of development of either the Iron Mountain or Comstock properties.)
The Desert Mound mine was furnishing 1000 tons of ore daily to Columbia Steel Corporation. (Iron County Record, January 9, 1929, page 4, "Prospects Look Bright")
LA&SL received approval to construct the Iron Mountain Extension on Iron Springs Spur of Cedar City Branch, from Desert Mound to Iron Mountain, 11.31 miles, to serve iron ore mines. Construction to commence on May 31, 1935. (ICC Finance Docket 10622, approved November 8, 1934, 202 ICC 454) (see also Utah Public Service Commission files, Box B65T1, 9/14/1987)
Representatives of Union Pacific were in Cedar City buying property for a new 12-mile rail line from Desert Mound, south to Iron Mountain. The Iron County Commission had already approved Union Pacific's request for a crossing of the Cedar-Newcastle Highway (today's Desert Mound Road). (Iron County Record, March 21, 1935, page 1)
April 16, 1935
Union Pacific let the contract for the construction of the new rail line between Desert Mound and Iron Mountain. Morrison-Knudsen of Boise, Idaho is to be the contractor. (Iron County Record, April 18, 1935, "Tuesday")
May 31, 1935
LA&SL began construction of the 11.31-mile line between Desert Mound and Iron Mountain, as an extension of the Cedar City Branch, to serve the iron ore mines that are being developed there. (ICC Financial Docket 10622)
August 25, 1935
Union Pacific completed the Iron Mountain Extension. Construction and installation of a new mining and crushing plant at the Iron Mountain mine was begun on August 1, 1935, and was completed in April 1936. (Iron Mountain Record, July 22, 1937, page 1)
In 1935 Columbia Iron Mining expanded their operations to include the open pit mine at Iron Mountain and Union Pacific extended the Iron Mountain Branch 10 miles south to reach Iron Mountain Station. In 1942 mining operations were again expanded to supply ore for the new Columbia-Geneva Steel plant, under construction near Orem to supply steel plate needed for the war effort, and Union Pacific made improvements to the facilities on the branch to handle the additional traffic. (U. S. Bureau of Mines Report of Investigations 4076, May 1947)
The following comes from "Iron Pays Utah Bills" in the July 22, 1937 issue of the Iron County Record:
The United States Steel Corporation came west [in 1930] and purchased all the properties of the Columbia Steel. There was no lack of capital now. Operations were shifted to Iron Mountain, 12 miles southwest of Desert Mound, and a railroad to that point was planned. Surveying for a standard gauge line was started in the fall of 1934. Construction began May 1, 1935, and was completed on August 25th.
Preliminary work on a mining and crushing plant had been in progress for some time. On August 1, 1935, the building of the plant was actually begun and the following April it was completed.
Adjacent to the plant site are several ore bodies. One of these, the Black Hawk, was selected for the first development. An open pit was started at 700 feet from the receiving hopper of the primary crusher. The ore is broken by drilling and blasting 6-Inch churn drill holes. The open pit face 80 feet high by 160 feet long. The ore is loaded by a 2-1/2-yard electric shovel into two trucks, each with a capacity of 23 long tons, and hauled to the hopper. A pan feeder conveys the ore from the receiving hopper to a 60 x 43-inch jaw crusher. A belt conveyor carries it to a scalping screen which by-passes the finished product. The oversize goes through either a reduction or a cone crusher. The product of this operation, which Is all of 2-inch size or less, is conveyed by a belt to a double-deck finishing screen which produces three sizes as follows: First grade, under 5/16 inch; second grade, 5/16 to 1 inch; third grade, 1 inch to 2 inches. The ore is loaded into railroad cars and shipped 239 miles to the blast furnace at Provo.
Since the Columbia Steel Corporation opened the mines at Iron Springs in 1923, operations in the district have been continuous. The development of the iron industry In Utah was the greatest incentive to the building of the Cedar City branch of the Union Pacific railroad. The iron mines have been the largest source of revenue for the road and also the largest consumers of power in the southern part of the state. Their payrolls have always been substantial. From them have been derived most of the $90,000 of taxes paid annually by the railroad to Iron County. Payments by the railway, mines and power company to the county are well over $100,000.
Although it has not been feasible to smelt the ore in Iron County, it is done within the state, so that the coal mines, stone quarries and transportation companies contribute to the employment of labor and the tax revenue of the state, the counties and the municipalities. Farmers and local merchants are secondary beneficiaries of the wealth produced by the iron industry.
It is a highly competitive industry. The Utah field must compete not only with domestic producers but also with foreign interests fortified by cheap labor. To do so it needs the same support through out the state that it receives from the people of Iron County.
Columbia Mining Company's iron ore mine at Iron Mountain was noted as being the "second largest iron ore mine on the American continent." Production was stated as being 900 tons per day during summer, being cut back to 600 tons per day. (Iron County Record, September 30, 1937, page 4)
Union Pacific announced the purchase of ten 1,500 horsepower EMD SD7 locomotives. Total cost of $2,150,000. (Union Pacific AFE 12, approved February 3, 1953)
The 10 SD7 locomotives would be used for handling Iron Mountain to Milford, Utah, business, and for heavy switching at the Geneva steel plant. Seven units were to be assigned to the South-Central District, and three units were to be assigned to effect economical operation of various branches, other than on the South-Central District. (Union Pacific letter, Stoddard to Charske, February 3, 1953)
The following comes from S. Kip Farrington's "Railroads Of The Hour" discussing UP's iron ore movements for 1957 (email from Ted Fernkenhoff, dated January 21, 2014):
Ore was loaded at Iron Mountain and Desert Mound for the Columbia Iron Mining Company, at Iron Mountain and Comstock for the Utah Construction Company, and at Iron Springs for H.L. Beatty. "In 1957 the UP moved a total of 72,802 carloads of iron ore, ore fines and sinter to various points." Further breakdown given as follows:
- 51,076 carloads of ore to Geneva and Ironton (US Steel)
- 16,569 carloads of ore to Minnequa (CF&I Steel-Pueblo)
- 2,601 carloads of ore to Fontana (Kaiser Steel)
- 110 carloads ore to the "Missouri River and east"
- 2,119 carloads ore to Long Beach for export
- 59 carloads of fines and sinter to Geneva and Ironton
U. S. Steel's iron plant at Ironton was closed in 1966.
Millions of tons of ore are supplied by Iron County's mines for the huge furnaces of Geneva Works. The volume of Utah iron consumed at Geneva has diminished substantially since U. S. Steel Corporation began the importation of iron ore from its new taconite mining and milling complex near Atlantic City, Wyoming. Other industries stem from the primary processing of iron ore, such as the iron foundries - Backman Foundry, Cox Foundry and Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Company in Provo, and the Spanish Fork Foundry in Spanish Fork; also a big steel pipe plant owned and operated by U. S. Steel near the Geneva Works. (Utah Mining Association, "Operational and Economic Review, August 1967, page 92)
Union Pacific received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to abandon portions of the Ironton Branch. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 77-400-06)
February 16, 1981
Union Pacific operated the last train of iron ore from Iron Mountain to the Colorado Fuel & Iron plant in Pueblo, Colorado. (source not recorded)
After U. S. Steel
A summary of operations included information that Gilbert Construction Company (of Cedar City, Utah) was the new operator of the Iron Mountain iron mines, plus operational notes that Union Pacific picked up loaded iron ore cars on Thursdays at 4, p.m. The main iron mine was at Comstock. Other iron ore loading facilities were at Iron Springs, Deseret, Mound, and Iron Mountain. (source not recorded)
September 1, 1987
U. S. Steel's Geneva Works steel plant was sold to Basic Manufacturing and Technologies of Utah, which changed its name to Geneva Steel Company in 1989.
Geneva Steel's production of iron ore at the iron mines west of Cedar City for 1988 was an estimated 550,000 tons, with 1989 to be a slight increase. (ed. note: the reported annual total calculates to be about sixteen 90-ton railroad cars per day) (Deseret News, January 29, 1989)
During 1990, Geneva Steel was mining 550,000 tons per year from its mines at Iron Mountain, and shipping the mined ore to its steel plant near Provo. (Deseret News, February 11, 1991, citing a recent article in Utah Business magazine)
The Iron Mountain was last operated in 1995 by Geneva Steel subsidiary Iron Ore Mines LLC. (source)
In a system-wide reorganization of its operating divisions, Union Pacific changed its Iron Springs-to-Iron Mountain branch from the Comstock Branch to the Comstock Subdivision. Its line between the mainline at Lund, and Cedar City was changed from the Cedar City Branch to the new Cedar City Subdivision.
The following comes from the 2004 report of the Utah Geological Survey:
Iron Springs-Pinto District
Palladon (65% joint-venture ownership) and WUCC (35% joint-venture ownership) have entered into an agreement with Iron Ore Mines LLC to purchase its iron properties in the Iron Springs-Pinto mining district in southwestern Utah for $10 million. Iron Ore Mines' property contains two iron deposits, the Comstock/Mountain Lion and the Rex. The Iron Springs-Pinto district has been one of the most productive iron ore districts in the western U.S. The bulk of the district's production occurred between 1923 and 1995, with its most productive period between 1947 and 1965 while being operated by U.S. Steel.
The Iron Ore Mines' property contains approximately 2000 ha (4940 acres) of patented mining claims and other fee lands and an additional 400 ha (990 acres) of unpatented mining claims. The measured reserve remaining in the Comstock/Mountain Lion pits is 25 million mt (27.6 million st) of ore averaging 47.1% Fe with a 0.3:1 stripping ratio. The Rex deposit, which has never been mined, contains a measured reserve of 80.9 million mt (89.2 million st) of ore averaging 39% iron, and could be amenable to open-pit mining. Near the Comstock/Mountain Lion deposit are several low-grade stockpiles estimated to contain a total of 12.5 million mt (13.8 million st) of ore averaging 42% iron. Palladon and WUCC are proposing to reopen the mine and construct an on-site smelter with a capital cost of $1.1 billion.
Palladon Iron Company
January 27, 2005
Palladon Iron Company began its acquisition of the iron ore properties in the vicinity of Cedar City. The property was previously owned by Iron Ore Mines, LLC. (Palladon news release) A later news release five days later clarified the definition of "reserves" and "historical estimates". (Palladon news release)
February 9, 2005
The following comes from the February 9, 2005 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune:
Palladon Ventures Ltd. has never developed a major mining project, but that is not stopping the "junior mining" company from talking up its plans for southern Utah. Having secured a contract giving it the right to buy an idle iron ore mine near Cedar City for $10 million from the bankrupt Geneva Steel, the company whose shares trade for 32 cents on the Toronto Venture Exchange and its partner, Western Utah Copper Co., say they want to develop a steel mill that will cost as much as $1 billion adjacent to the mine.
Before the two companies can move forward on their billion-dollar steel mill plan, though, they must raise approximately $10 million by April 9 to complete the acquisition of the Cedar City area iron-ore property from Geneva subsidiary Iron Ore Mines LLC, which last operated the property in 1995.
Palladon, however, appears far from the strongest company financially. While its unaudited financial statement for the nine-month period ended Nov. 30 indicates the company is holding $2.1 million in cash, it also lost $1.4 million during that same nine-month period. The company concedes there is no market for iron ore from the property it intends to buy.
"For this reason," the company said in a statement, "Palladon and [Western Utah Copper] believe that the best use for the iron ore . . . may be to process the ore on-site to produce direct-reduced iron nuggets or 'hot metal' as feed for an adjoining steel plant, with the steel products to be sold into the growing markets of the southwestern United States."
Palladon President George Young, whose resume lists a stint as general counsel and acting general manager of the Intermountain Power Agency, understands the company's plans will be viewed with skepticism. "We've already met with a lot [of skepticism] but think we can do this," he said. "We've already got companies interested in joint venturing with us. Geneva was an old, antiquated mill with a lot of problems. We believe we can put a mill near the site and that with the close proximity of the iron ore deposits, operate a modern facility with significantly lower costs than the industry standard."
April 13, 2005
Palladon completed its purchase of the iron ore properties near Cedar City. (Palladon news release)
August 26, 2005
Palladon announced that Luxor Capital Partners had become an equal partner participant in the Iron Mountain Project, acquiring a full 50 percent interest, with Western Utah Copper giving up its original 35 percent, and Palladon reducing its interest from the original 65 percent, to 50 percent. This was in return for Luxor's assistance in restructuring the original $10.3 million loan that allowed Palladon and Western to purchase the Iron Mountain Project (actual name: Mountain Lion/Comstock Iron Project), along with Luxor contributing almost $2 million in financial support that would allow continued development of the Iron Mountain Project. Palladon was then to use $1.4 million to directly benefit its own interest in the continued development of Western Utah Copper's copper mine west of Milford. (Business Wire, August 27, 2005; Palladon press release)
Reports surfaced about a new railroad having been organized in Utah to operate rail service along UP's Comstock Subdivision. Projected operations was to operate run-through UP motive power (using Utah Southern crews) to move approximately 2 million tons per year in 12,000 ton, 84-car unit trains. Operations were planned to begin in the third quarter of 2006. It was reported that Palladon and Utah Southern had already reached agreements on the needed rehabilitation of the trackage between the mines and the interchange point with UP at Iron Springs Junction, also known as Comstock Junction. (Trainorders.com, May 6, 2006)
More reports described the planned routing of the iron ore units trains from Iron Mountain. The planned route for about half the iron ore was by way of Donner Pass, then to the Port of Richmond (via Richmond Pacific) for loading into ships bound for China. The other half was to be moved to Portland for loading on ships. It was also reported that Utah Southern was owned by Mike Root, who also owned Albany & Eastern Railroad in Oregon, and that he had completed a hi-rail inspection of the line on April 20, 2006. The planned production rate from the mine was to allow the operation of 240 trains of 80 to 84 cars each. Utah Southern was to construct three train-length holding tracks at Iron Springs for interchange with UP. (Trainorders.com, May 4, 2006)
August 28, 2006
Palladon Ventures announced that they had sold their first iron ore from the Iron Mountain project near Cedar City, Utah. The first order was a 500 ton shipment of crushed feed material to a cement industry customer, who trucked the material from the mine site. The material is from a stockpile holding approximately 100,000 tons of iron ore grading an average of 56 percent iron mineral. This material was mined, crushed, and stockpiled by Geneva Steel prior to the shutdown of their operations at Iron Mountain in 1996. (Palladon press release)
September 14, 2006
Palladon Iron Corporation received federal Surface Transportation Board approval for its lease of Union Pacific's Iron Mountain Branch, running from Iron Springs station on UP's Cedar City Branch, south to the Comstock/Iron Mountain iron ore mines being developed by Palladon. On the same date, Palladon leased the branch for operation to the newly organized Iron Bull Railroad (IBR), controlled by Albany & Eastern Railroad (AERC), a shortline operating in Oregon's Willamette Valley. (STB Decision)
January 9, 2007
Palladon sold their interest in the Western Utah Copper Project to their former joint venture partner, Western Utah Copper Company, for a reported $3 million in cash, and $10 million payable as royalties from the smelting of known reserves and newly discovered ore bodies. Palladon announced that the proceeds of the sale was to be used to pay down principal on the outstanding loan to Luxor Capital Partners on the debt outstanding for the Iron Mountain Project. (Palladon news release)
May 22, 2007
Corriente Master Fund of Forth Worth, Texas, purchased 10 million shares of Palladon common stock, giving them 13.2 percent ownership of Palladon Ventures. The agreement also allowed Corriente to purchase interests in an additional 6.6 percent interest at a future date. (Corriente Advisors news release)
June 21, 2007
Palladon Ventures announced that a five-year renewable contract had been executed with Holcim Inc., for the sale of iron ore materials used in the cement manufacturing process. Iron ore material was to be sold at the Comstock/Mountain Lion Mine at Iron Mountain, Utah, and shipped by truck by Holcim to their 800,000-ton capacity Devils Slide facility near Morgan, Utah. Holcim Ltd. is one of the leading global manufacturers and suppliers of cement, aggregates, and mineral components. Holcim Ltd. operates in over 70 countries around the world, employing over 90,000 people. In the United States, Holcim Inc. is one of the largest suppliers of Portland and blended cements, operating 14 manufacturing plants and over 70 distribution facilities, supplying more than 14 million metric tonnes of cement and related materials annually. (Palladon news release)
July 4, 2007
Palladon Iron Corporation, a direct subsidiary of Palladon Ventures, Ltd., officially changed its name to Iron Bull Mining and Milling. (Palladon news release)
The owners of Iron Bull Railroad also owned the Albany & Eastern Railroad in Oregon. In early August 2007, they sold their interest in Albany & Eastern to focus their activities on the further development of their interests in Utah, which was expected to begin operations during the third quarter of 2008. (Trainorders.com, July 26, 2007)
April 1, 2008
Palladon Iron Corporation (PIC), has signed a long-term sales agreement with China Kingdom International Minerals & Metals Co., Ltd (CKI). (Palladon news release)
Track rehabilitation of UP's Comstock Subdivision began in early June with the first train expected sometime after July 15. The road's operating plan called for two or more cuts per day to be loaded and brought down the hill from the mine to the UP connection at Iron Springs. There is not enough room at the mine to load a whole train. Motive power was to be SD40-2 locomotives. (Trainorders.com, May 16, 2008)
August 6, 2008
Palladon Iron Corporation organized the Palladon Iron Corporation Railroad (PICR) to operate its lease of the Union Pacific Comstock Subdivision.
October 17, 2008
First Utah Southern train, in the form of a test train of 25 empty cars, was run on Friday October 17, 2008.
April 2009 to March 2010
After the collapse of the worldwide investment markets, the financing that Palladon was depending on to fund continued development work evaporated and trading of the company's stock was stopped. After months of negotiations with Luxor Capital Group as its primary lender, Palladon Ventures was forced to turn 78 percent ownership of Palladon Iron Corporation over to Luxor on March 15, 2010, with Palladon Ventures retaining 22 percent ownership. Luxor stated that development of the Comstock/Mountain Lion iron mines would continue under its management team. (Palladon news release)
Mining operations were delayed due to financial difficulties of Palladon Ventures Ltd.
CML Metals Corporation
January 25, 2010
The management and leadership of Palladon Iron Corporation was changed to include the management and leadership of Gilbert Development Corporation, which had been the extraction contractor for all products being mined at Iron Mountain since the mid 1980s, when U. S. Steel, then Geneva Steel (after 1987) were the principle customers. (Palladon news release dated January 25, 2010)
Palladon Iron Corporation was reorganized as CML Metals Corporation, as the operating company of the newly organized CML Holdings, Holdings on or about March 16, 2010, after a financial settlement between Palladon Ventures, and its source of investment capital, Luxor Capital Partners. The settlement resulted in Luxor converting its $40.5 million investment into a 78.3 percent interest in Palladon Iron Corporation, with Palladon Ventures, holding the remaining 21.7 percent. The operating CML Metals Corporation, a subsidiary of CML Holdings. (Palladon news release dated March 16, 2010)
(The CML name comes from the name of the mine actively being worked, Comstock Mountain Lion.)
(At the time, CML Metals Corporation was 78 percent owned by Luxor Capital Group and 22 percent owned by Palladon Ventures, Ltd.; Luxor Capital Partners, LP was a New York City hedge fund founded by Christian Leone.)
(Palladon Ventures, Ltd., is a mining company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. As of March 2010 Palladon Iron Corporation's CEO was Dale Gilbert who was also President and CEO of Gilbert Development Corporation, the project's mining contractor. Also on Palladon's Board of Directors was Steve Gilbert, founder of Gilbert Development Corporation.)
Mining operations began, following a formal agreement between China Kingdom International Minerals & Metals and CML Metals for the shipment of at least 600,000 tons of iron ore to China by way of the Port of Richmond, near Oakland. (Palladon news release dated June 11, 1010)
July 12, 2010
The first trains of iron ore moved from Utah to Richmond, California, using 150 Rapid Discharge hopper cars owned by CML Metals Corporation and leased to Utah Southern Railroad, using USR's reporting mark. The iron ore moved in two trains of 75 cars each. Plans called for two trains per week, with Utah Southern Railroad handling the loads from the mine on the Comstock branch. (See also: Deseret News article dated July 11, 2010)
January 11, 2012
CML Railroad (CMLR) officially took over the operation of the lease of UP's Comstock Subdivision, for the purposes of moving unit trains of iron ore from the Comstock Mountain Lion mine, to the interchange and connection with Union Pacific at Iron Springs, Utah. (CML Metals news release, copied to the Palladon Ventures web site (Palladon news release dated January 12, 2012; "Secured rail capacity and fleet of railcars").
March 9, 2012
Iron ore trains from Utah began using the Port of Stockton in Stockton, California, using 5,825 feet of new track built by Central California Traction Company, provider of rail service to the port. The port received its first iron ore shipments in 2011, and had shipped 800,000 tons by year's end. Trains were to be operated into the port facilities on a weekly basis starting on April 1, 2012. (The Record, Stockton, California, March 10, 2012, page A5)
The CML railroad operations used four SD40-3's leased from Helm Financial. The road numbers are 6060, 6064, 6090 and 6079. CML had a fleet of about 550 open top hopper cars also leased from Helm. CML operated approximately five trains a week of either 84 cars (UP symbol OISST) and 100 cars (UP symbol OISRM). ST= Stockton, RM = Richmond. CML also did its own car, locomotive, and track repairs, with 11 employees.
From a recent joint Palladon/CML press release:
Earlier this year, CML secured port access in Southern California at the Port of Long Beach, California and shipped its first fully-loaded Supramax on March 31, 2013. During the calendar quarter ended September 30, 2013, the Company successfully transitioned to using Panamax vessels, resulting in the largest iron ore shipments the Company has loaded to date. CML will retain the flexibility to use Supramax vessels. The Company successfully loaded and shipped three Panamax vessels during the months of August and September from the Port of Long Beach destined for China. These loads averaged approximately 70,000 metric tonnes with contained Fe averaging nearly 65%. The Company completed loading and shipped its fourth Panamax from the Port of Long Beach during the first half of October.
As expected, the new port facility has increased CML's export capacity and helped to lower unit costs, as employing larger vessels reduces unit shipping costs. In addition, Long Beach is substantially closer to the mine than CML's prior ports, providing for some lower maintenance costs related to the CML rail cars. CML is exploring, with the Port of Long Beach, the use of larger ocean vessels, such as Post Panamax vessels carrying in excess of 100,000 tonnes, which may assist CML in lowering their freight costs.
CML is producing at approximately 75% of capacity, which is a rate of operation that fills a Panamax vessel approximately every 2.5 weeks. Once the new hyperbaric disk filters are installed at the Utah mine, CML expects production to increase to 100% of original design capacity of two million tons per year. (CML Metals news release; Palladon Ventures news release)
October 18, 2014
Due to falling prices of iron ore on the world market, the Iron Mountain Project was shut down for an indefinite period. (Palladon news release dated October 17, 2014)
April 6, 2015
CML Metals Corporation was sold to Gilbert Development Corporation in an agreement dated April 6, 2015. (Palladon news release dated April 6, 2015)
Iron Mountain Railroads -- A Google Map of the railroads and mines in the Iron Mountain District, near Cedar City, Utah.
- Photos of Iron Mountain -- A search of all Utah Division of State History Digital Collections
- Searches of numerous on-line newspaper and periodical collections, notably the Utah Digital Newspaper Collection, as well as the Security Exchange Commission 10-K reports and various corporate news releases.
- Emails from many interested individuals, including Allen Copeland, Adam Eastman, and Kevin Anderson.
- Palladon's Iron Mountain Project -- A description of Palladon Venture's Iron Mountain Project, at their own web site.
- Utah Southern Railroad -- Information about the Utah Southern Railroad, which operated the iron ore trains from July 2010 to December 2011.
- CML Railroad -- Information about the CML Railroad, which began operating the iron ore trains in January 2012; shut down in October 2014.