Utah Coal Industry: A Study in Economic Geography

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Publication Type thesis
School or College College of Mines & Earth Sciences
Department Geography
Author Prince, Donald Gail
Title Utah Coal Industry: A Study in Economic Geography
Description The importance of coal in the modern industrial economy cannot be overestimated. This age has been variously characterized as an "Age of Coal and Iron, " "Steel Age, " "Machine Age, " and "Power Age. " By whatever characterization we attempt to describe our modern industrial world, the significance of fuel and power are inherent in all of them. Today, bituminous coal ranks first in its contribution to fuel needs of the world, followed by petroleum, natural gas, and anthracite coal. Eighteen per cent of the area of the State of Utah is underlain by coal beds of varying thickness and quality (Plate I). The total reserves of all ranks of coal in the State are tremendous even when conservative calculations are made. As of January, 1950, the United States Geological Survey estimated that there were 92. 5 billion tons of coal underground in Utah, Much of this is in thin seams and a considerable portion is wasted in the mining process, but even a 25 per cent recovery would insure an enormous future supply. Improved mining methods, with a greater percentage of recovery are constantly being developed and this will continually add to the recoverable reserves. To the economy of Utah bituminous coal has always been of considerable importance. In the early days of settlement a great deal of effort was Utah State Dept. of Publicity and Industrial Development, After Victory-Flans for Utah and the Wasatch Front, Salt Lake City: Utah State Department of Publicity and Industrial Development, June, 1943, p, 47. expended in attempts to discover and develop coal in the territory. Later when the nonferrous metal industry began to expand coal was their main source of fuel and some of the smelting interests even acquired coal mines to insure a supply of fuel for their operations. When the production of iron began in Utah in 1925 and with the opening of the Geneva Steel Plant in 1943, coal took on added importance as the base of a new industrial era in the State and in the Intermountain West. It is important not only for the industrial expansion it may make possible in the future but also for the employment it creates both directly and indirectly. Coal mining in Utah has provided direct employment for between 3, 000 and 4, 000 workers for the past 40 years. Indirectly the industry has provided employment or business opportunities for several thousand additional workers throughout the State, particularly in the Carbon-Emery County area. The problems facing the Utah coal industry are many and involved. The operators face physical problems in the production and transportation of the coal and economic problems of competition for markets. The physical conditions of the mining areas present many peculiar difficulties but the greatest physical problem is that of transportation. The mining areas are remote from any large consuming centers and as a result much time, effort, and money must be expended in moving the coal to market and these costs are increasing. The excessive productive capacity in the mining industry and the resulting severe competition among the different producers has long hurt the industry and has recently been intensified by the heavy competition from other fuels such as natural gas and fuel oil. The human factors involved in the coal industry are much more difficult to determine and evaluate but they are equally as important as the physical and economic. The mine owner is faced with demands for increased wages and benefits by a militant union, with more stringent government regulation and supervision. On the other hand, the miner is confronted with a rising cost of living, less work, and much insecurity as to the future of his job. Thus the dilemma in which the industry finds itself becomes apparent. Despite these problems and the decline in coal markets and increasing competition, coal is the basic source of industrial energy and probably will never be replaced completely by any other source of power. The operator is now faced with rising costs in the face of dwindling returns, and while the long-range view offers the possibility of increasing use of coal in the future, the present situation demands that the industry make many adjustments to meet the changing conditions to avoid a period of depression until the future demand becomes a reality. An understanding of the varied problems of this industry can only be gained through the work of persons in many fields. Geography may contribute through a presentation of the areal relationships of significant factors of the industry. The patterns of coal deposits, mines, towns, and transportation routes are shown and the political and economic factors which affect these patterns are considered. This study of the Utah coal industry was made in the hope that such a description and explanation of the spatial distribution of the facilities of the industry in its geographic setting might make some contribution toward the solution of the multitude of problems which today threaten much of this vital industry with possible ruin.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Coal trade, Utah
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Language eng
Relation is Version of Digital reproduction of
Rights Management © Donald Gail Prince
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 8,873,761 bytes
Identifier undthes,4721
Source Original: University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections,
Master File Extent 8,873,761 bytes
ARK ark:/87278/s6pk0j06
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2012-04-24
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 191631
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6pk0j06
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