The diversity of Wyoming’s
minerals has been an anchor for the state’s economy in the past and
will continue to contribute to its development. Our energy minerals (coal, uranium, and oil and
gas) are known worldwide, as is our state gemstone, Wyoming Jade. However, metals and industrial minerals
are also prominent in Wyoming. Modern exploration in Wyoming includes base and precious metals, gemstones, and industrial minerals.
Early discoveries and development of gold mines near South Pass in the mid-1800s helped Wyoming
become a territory and then a state.
Copper mining that began in the late 1800s peaked in the early 1900s when the Ferris-Haggarty
mine in the Sierra Madre was one of the top 30 copper mines in the world. After its closure in
1908, Wyoming no longer was a significant copper producer, although a large resource still exists
in that mine. Exploration in the 1950s through the 1980s identified substantial copper resources
at several locations in the Absaroka Mountains, and in the early 2000s, exploration in the Silver
Crown district in the Laramie Mountains expanded a known copper resource.
Iron mining began near Rawlins in the 1870s, in the Sunrise area in 1898, and in the Atlantic
City Iron Mine near South Pass in 1962. The last reported production from Rawlins was in 1945.
Iron mining ceased at Sunrise in 1980 and at South Pass in 1983, although both mines still host significant iron resources.
Industrial minerals such as bentonite (first described in Wyoming), gypsum, aggregate, crushed
stone, chemical-grade limestone, decorative stone, and trona, play a continuing role in the state’s
economy. In fact, Wyoming’s trona resources, an estimated 127 billion tons, are the largest in
Wyoming also hosts a wide variety of gemstones that include diamonds, jade, iolite, agates,
and petrified wood. These precious and semiprecious stones have attracted both amateur rock
collectors and commercial interests from across the nation and around the world.