Beryllium is a critical mineral mined in Utah
During the legislative session in February, Governor Cox signed a resolution recognizing Utah as an important source of critical minerals in the United States and expressing the need to mine public lands. Utah is a domestic producer of several critical minerals. Brian Jaskula, with the National Minerals Information Team at the U.S. Geological Survey, said critical minerals are those that the federal government considers of strategic importance.
“So, there's a lot of emphasis on trying to make sure that we have a nice secure supply of them – in terms of, you know, if things go wrong globally, we want to make sure that it won't impact our access to these metals that are needed for our security,” Jaskula said.
Utah is the only domestic source of one critical mineral: beryllium.
“When it comes to beryllium, the Spor mountain in Delta, Utah – there's an enormous concentration of what's called Bertrandite. That's where the beryllium is sourced, in the United States,” Jaskula said.
Jaskula said beryllium has many uses, including everything from space technology to household light switches. The James Webb Telescope, launched into space last December, has eighteen, ten-foot mirrors made almost entirely of beryllium, Jaskula said.
“And the reason they chose beryllium, it's because, you know, it's very expensive to manufacture, but it stands up to the frigid cold of space – because those mirrors, they have to retain their shape,” Jaskula said.
The stability of beryllium at extreme temperatures and the mineral’s light weight make it useful in aerospace and military applications.
“it's, like, right after lithium on the periodic table, then comes beryllium, so it's the second lightest metal, and it's the fourth lightest element. So because beryllium is very light, it has this great strength to weight ratio going for it,” Jaskula said.
With critical minerals like beryllium found in Utah’s earth, how and where can they be mined? To learn more about the extraction industry and public lands in Utah, see part two of this two-part series.