Message from Director John Baza – Fall 2017

Many communities in Utah recently underwent municipal elections in which local citizens were engaged in choosing their local government representatives. As I considered who I would vote for, I felt that who I voted for was not as important as what I saw as significant issues in my community that needed to be addressed. Regardless of what the issues may have been, I wanted to know where individuals stood on those issues, and I wanted to vote for the person who could passionately represent my interests in those issues.

City government leadership should be focused on those things that matter most to their community’s citizens. Ordinances and policies will differ from community to community dependent on the opinions of a majority of the residents of any particular city. However, as the size of the community increases, more issues are in play, and the community’s majority opinion may differ substantially from certain individuals who have a minority viewpoint. As one philosopher once stated, “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.”

It is the same in state government. The substantially large population base leads to diverse opinions and differing views on everything from medical care to land use to transportation. As citizens, we hope that our concerns are adequately reflected by the efforts of our elected officials and in turn by those appointed and employed by state leaders in their various functions. Occasionally, however, there are differences of opinion between majority and minority interests that are seemingly unfair to those individuals whose lives are affected by state policy and implementation of administrative rules.

In the development of the energy and mineral resources of Utah, this is an ongoing discussion with substantial differences of opinion. The charge of the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining is to foster and encourage responsible development of Utah’s underground energy and mineral resources. We must do so with adherence to the governing statutes established by the legislature, and to the administrative rules adopted by our governing Board of Oil, Gas and Mining. In some cases, the application of such laws and rules seems unfair to various parties such as the developers, adjacent landowners, community activists, or members of the unconnected but observing public. Some may never fully agree with the decisions made by DOGM, but they should know that we will always abide by the statutes and rules established for petroleum and mining operations.

Ultimately, each citizen has the right to petition for a change in law or administrative rule to either the legislature or an administrative board such as ours. This is the process by which state policy is changed and interested parties have the ability to achieve correction in policy that affects them. But it must be remembered in the policy changing process that both elected and appointed officials will generally need to seek the good of the many that may contradict the good of the few.

Minerals Program: Uniquely Utah

Utah is home to an interesting mix of minerals used for a wide variety of products. Some of these minerals are found only in Utah, making them unique and valuable to the rest of the world. The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Minerals Program oversees and regulates all non-coal mining operations in the state. From large to small operators, staff works to ensure mining operation procedures are followed. This includes verifying operators work within permit boundaries, mining operations pose no threat to public safety or the environment, and making sure the Division has adequate bonds to ensure reclamation.

There are over 500 different minerals found in Utah with over 20 different metals including copper, gold and silver. Currently there are nearly 600 permitted mineral operations statewide with a total of approximately 66,600 acres of disturbance. The Minerals program with a staff of six inspectors statewide is tasked with reviewing mine permit applications (21 new permits in 2016) and amendments, inspecting mines (over 470 inspections in 2016), ensuring compliance with the law, and responding to public comments.

Red Beryl- rarer than diamond and more valuable than gold
Privately-held mining claim
Millard County, Utah

The gemstone has several different names: red beryl, red emerald, or bixbite. Originally, the mineral was named bixbite, but now red beryl is the most accepted designation. Red beryl is estimated to be worth 1,000 times more than gold and is so rare that one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds.

Red beryl is presently found at only three locations in the world: the Thomas Range and the Wah Wah Mountains in west-central Utah, and the Black Range in New Mexico. The only known deposit of large, gem-quality red beryl in the world is from the Ruby-Violet claims in the Wah Wah Mountains of Beaver County, Utah. These are private claims and no collecting is allowed without permission from the present claim owners.

Materion Corporation
Millard County, Utah

Beryllium is a light metal, but strong, melts at a high temperature and is corrosion-resistant. It is expensive and is used in missile and rocket parts due to its strength without weight. It is used in x-ray tubes because it is transparent to x-rays. When combined with copper it forms a high-strength, non-sparking alloy used for tools handled around oil wells and flammable gases, where a spark from an iron tool could be disastrous. It’s also used in beryllium copper golf clubs. Certain forms of Beryllium are toxic, so it must be handled with caution. Utah is home to the only active beryllium mine in the world.

American Gilsonite
Uintah County, Utah

Gilsonite is a shiny, black, solid hydrocarbon that has been mined in Utah since 1888. It is a trademarked brand name for uintaite, a naturally occurring hydrocarbon resin found in products including oil and gas, ink, paint, construction, asphalt and explosives. It is an important industrial mineral that is shipped worldwide. All Utah’s gilsonite mines are located in southeastern Uintah County.

Intrepid Potash
Grand County, Utah

Potash is potassium-containing salts used widely by farmers in fertilizer.
Most potash forms in arid regions when inland seas or lakes evaporate leaving behind potassium salt deposits. Over time, sediment buried these deposits creating potash ore.

In Utah, miners pump water into deep underground caverns. Potash is soluble, so water dissolves it into brine that is pumped back to the surface and into one of the evaporation ponds.  As the water evaporates, potash and other salts crystallize out. This evaporation process typically takes about 300 days. The water is dyed bright blue to reduce the amount of time it takes for the potash to crystallize; darker water absorbs more sunlight and heat. The crystals of potash and salt are then sent to a facility to be separated through a flotation process.

In 2013, the United States produced over one million tons of potash, about two percent of global production. The fertilizer industry consumed about 85 percent of the potash produced by the United States; the chemical industry used the rest.

Intrepid Potash near Moab is the largest producer of potassium chloride, one of many potash salts used in fertilizer and used to farm a variety of foods, particularly chloride-loving vegetables like sugar beets, celery, Swiss chard and other plants that are resilient to chloride. Its chloride can be beneficial for soils that are low in chloride, making plants more disease resistant; however, if the soil or irrigation water has high levels of chloride, the added content can create toxicity. This means that the levels have to be carefully managed, and MOP must only be used for select crops.

U.S. Magnesium
Tooele County, Utah

Magnesium is moderately priced, strong, light and easy to machine. Its downside is that it’s highly flammable. Magnesium was used for early photographic flashes; many modern pyrotechnics use magnesium powder, especially incendiary bombs, signals and flares. Magnesium is used in jet-engine parts, rockets and missiles, bicycles, and portable power tools. Much more common is aluminum mixed with magnesium.

Although there are other magnesium mines in the world. US Magnesium is the sole provider in the United States.

Dragon Mine
Juab County, Utah

The Dragon Mine is the only known measured resource of Halloysite Clay in the Western Hemisphere significant enough for large scale production. It is also one of only a few underground mineral mines in the state and one of the only halloysite mines in the world.

Halloysite has historically been used in the manufacture of porcelain, bone china, and fine china. In these applications the combination of the tubular shape in clay with low iron and titanium content produces ceramic ware with exceptional whiteness and translucency. The tubular shape, also known as a nanotube, may be large enough to serve as a pipe through which other nanoparticles can be channeled, or, depending on the material, may be used as an electrical conductor or an electrical insulator.

Halloysite nanotubes can be coated with metallic and other substances to achieve a wide variety of electrical, chemical, and physical properties. The hollow tubes can be filled with a variety of active ingredients including those used for cosmetics, household and personal care products, pesticides, pest repellents, pharmaceuticals and other agents that could benefit from extended release.

The State of Utah recently awarded a grant to a team from the University of Utah to further development of soild polymer electrolytes using halloysite for use in solid-state lithium batteries.

Annual Employee Achievement Award – 2017

Coal Program Hydrologist Keenan Storrar received the 2017 Oil, Gas and Mining Achievement Award. In his two years plus with the Division, Keenan has developed into an exemplary employee. He has steadily expanded his knowledge and expertise in not only the Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and its application to the Division, but also the processes and rules of other state and federal regulatory agencies with whom he interacts.

Keenan routinely initiates projects on his own with minimal oversight. For example, Keenan has initiated a joint project with OSM and PacifiCorp to utilize LIDAR technology in evaluating the effectiveness of reclamation technique called ‘pocking’ or sometimes referred to as ‘deep gouging.’ It is a reclamation technique that is primarily utilized in the arid southwest and has been successfully implemented at several coal mine reclamation sites.

However, little to any scientific work has been done nationwide to quantify and examine the effectiveness of this technique. Keenan is working towards obtaining precise sedimentation data by utilizing LIDAR technology in concert with OSM and PacifiCorp at the Cottonwood/Wilberg Mine in Emery County. The reclamation of the mine began this month. In obtaining this data, Keenan is at the forefront of advancing the understanding and application of pocking as a reclamation technique and its effectiveness to control erosion on steep, reclaimed slopes in arid, semi-arid environments. Its work that the Division will take immense pride in in the years to come as this reclamation technique can be utilized in all manner of slope stabilization applications from hard rock mining, to highway projects to general construction, etc.

Keenan is a genuine asset to the Division. His rapport with his colleagues, co-workers and coal operators is genuine and one of mutual respect. Keenan is well-deserving of the award as he continues to go above and beyond on a daily basis.

Employee Highlight – Fall 2017

Susan White is an environmental scientist, reclamation specialist, biologist and project manager for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP). She has been with the Division since 1990 and has worked in the coal and minerals programs and administration. She also worked two years with the Energy Advisor and Office of Energy Development.

As a project manager, Susan oversees a lengthy checklist of processes that must be done before any actual mine closure work is done. A medium sized project with 30 to 50 openings takes two to three years of surveys and paperwork before construction starts. Once construction begins, work can be completed in a couple of weeks. 

Susan begins a project with a defined area, usually a mining district, and completes an inventory of safety hazards and mine closure options. She then assesses and contacts the resources potentially affected by reclamation including historic, paleontological, bats, raptors, and threatened or endangered species.  Public meetings are held to educate and gather project input. A National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document is produced accounting for the potentially affected resources and what steps will be taken to protect them.  Once these steps are complete, the federal funding partner, usually the Office of Surface Mining or the Bureau of Land Management, issues a decision document that then allows moving to construction.

While these processes are time consuming, it ensures Susan and the AMR program protect the environment and resources, while at the same time protect public safety.

According to Susan, the best part about her job is working with co-workers and partners- to her they are like family. She also enjoys getting out in the field and away from her desk (unless there are biting no-see ums).

Susan has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology with a minor in botany and a Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management from Brigham Young University.

She has over 40 years of experience in the natural resource field. Some of the highlights include a threaten and endangered plant survey in southeastern Utah in 1977; vegetation surveys along the Alaska oil pipeline for two summers; biotic surveys and revegetation work during the first oil shale boom and bust in the 1980s; and construction management for revegetation of oil and gas operations in western Wyoming, interstate pipelines, and interstate powerlines.

Susan has been riding her bike to work for about 25 years and finds it a great way to unwind. She also enjoys hiking and exploring trails along the Wasatch Front and is an avid gardener.