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Salt Lake Valley Smelters

This page was last updated on June 13, 2013.

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Compiled by Don Strack

(This is a work in progress; research continues.)

The End Of Lead (and Zinc and Silver) Smelting In Utah

The mining and processing of lead-zinc-silver provided Utah's railroads with a significant source of business. The end of milling and smelting of the ores in Utah, and the resulting closure of many of the mines, resulted in many branch lines losing their reason for existance. These branches included UP's Park City Branch, D&RGW's Eureka Branch, D&RGW's Lark Branch, the far south end of D&RGW's Marysvale Branch, and the entire Tooele Valley Railway.

During 1969, Utah was producing less than five percent of the nation's lead, with 30 percent of the nation's output being used as an additive for gasoline. There were three mills that were processing lead ore, and one lead smelter (International Smelter near Tooele), and five mines producing lead ore, with an estimated total 1969 output of 39,500 tons.

According to an article in the New York Times, by late 1971 the International smelter at Tooele was processing lead-zinc-silver ores from the United States mine at Lark; the Ophir and Silver Eagle mine in Tooele County; the Arundel mine at Marysvale; the United Park City mine at Park City and Keetley; the New Park Mayflower mine at Crammer (Mayflower); and the Bergin mine at Eureka, along with ores from the Camp Bird mine in Ouray, Colorado and the Standard Metals mine at Silverton, Colorado. These mines all first shipped their ores by rail to the United States mill at Midvale for initial processing and concentration. The ores were then shipped by rail as concentrates to the International smelter at Tooele. In early November Anaconda announced that it would be closing its lead smelter at Tooele, and one week later, the United States company announced "phased shutdown by year's end." With the closing of the Midvale and Tooele plants, all of these mines were faced with having to ship their raw ores to either the ASARCO and Bunker Hill smelter at Kellogg, Idaho, or to the ASARCO smelter at El Paso, Texas. All of the mines faced likely shutdown due to the high cost of transportation, and the low market value of lead, zinc and silver. Hecla Mining Company was already sending its ore from the New Park mine at Mayflower to ASARCO at El Paso.(New York Times, November 27, 1971)

November 1971
USSR&M closed its Lark mine, and its Midvale mill and concentrator. The concentrate was being shipped to the International smelter near Tooele. (Deseret News, November 12, 1971)

January 28, 1972
The smelter of International Smelting and Refining Company was scheduled to close on January 1, 1972, but reduced production work continued for another three weeks. (Tooele Transcript, February 11, 1972)

When the Tooele smelter closed, it left over 30 mining properties without a nearby smelter. These mines were forced to close due the high costs of shipment of their ores to the nearest custom smelters at El Paso, Texas, East Helena, Mont., or Kellogg, Idaho. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 111, citing Deseret News of November 9 and 13, 1971)

The Tooele smelter was closed to save costs following Anaconda's loss of its properties in Chile, which were taken over by the Chilean government in 1971. To save the company, its unprofitable properties were either closed or sold. The sell-off did not work, and by 1975, Anaconda was purchased by Atlantic Richfield. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 118)

Copper is still mined, milled, smelted and refined in Utah.

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