Wyoming's diverse mineral deposits and unique geology provide raw materials for industry, energy development and other sectors. The exploration, development and production of some of Earth's most basic natural resources creates quality employment opportunities in local communities, and federal mineral development is a major source of revenue that supports local, state and federal priorities. In addition, small miners continue to stake claims on public lands in search of gold and other minerals, harkening back to the pioneers who headed west during the Gold Rush. The BLM collaborates with members of the public, private industry, Native American tribes, and state and local governments to carry out our mineral materials program on Wyoming's public lands. The following synopsis covers the variety of mineral opportunities in the state and does not differentiate between private, state and public lands because you can find these resources on all of them.
Wyoming is home to the world's largest bentonite deposits, approximately 70% of international supply. In 2019, Wyoming bentonite developers mined more than five million tons. Bentonite is used in hundreds of industrial and commercial products including cosmetics, kitty litter, pharmaceuticals, drilling muds and more. Over the last decade, several bentonite operators in the state have received BLM reclamation awards for their sustainability and restoration efforts.
Wyoming is also home to the nation's largest volume of recoverable uranium, a critical mineral, There are almost a dozen authorized uranium mines across the state, which predominantly use in-situ recovery instead of open pit mining. In-situ recovery minimizes disturbance by extracting dissolved uranium ions without impairing the surface estate.
Critical minerals are minerals associated with 35 elements deemed essential to economic and national security. Most of these minerals are locatable, and they may be either directly mined or extracted as a byproduct of another mineral. Wyoming may have other substantial critical minerals in addition to uranium; there is potential to develop large rare earth elements under U.S. Forest Service land in the northeast portion of the state. There are also lithium resources at depth in various areas of Wyoming and large vanadium resources in the western part of the state.
Wyoming is home to the world's largest trona deposit, which covers about 1,300 square miles near Green River. This region supplies about 90% of the nation's soda ash, Wyoming's biggest export and third-largest developed mineral resource, producing about 17 million to 18 million tons annually. Manufacturers use soda ash as an intermediate to produce products that sweeten soft drinks, relieve physical discomfort, improve food and toiletries, and more. Over the last five years, one trona operator received a BLM sustainability award for its efforts to reestablish sage-grouse habitat.
Wyoming may be known for its coal deposits in the Powder River Basin, which supplies up to 40% of the nation's coal needs, but people have mined coal all over the state for more than 100 years. Coal is the second largest resource produced in Wyoming, using both surface and underground mining methods. In 2019, the state was responsible for producing more than 270 million tons of coal. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has granted reclamation and sustainability awards to several of Wyoming's coal mines over the past two decades.
Saleable minerals, also called aggregates or mineral materials, are the largest mineral resource in the state and can be found almost anywhere. Consisting of common varieties of sand, stone, clay and other materials, saleable minerals are Wyoming's fourth largest mineral resource by production and development. They have diverse functions and appear in all kinds of products from building construction, roads, bridges and drilling pads to landscaping and conservation measures like stream restoration and stabilization projects. Minerals like sand and gravel typically supply local markets while other saleable minerals supply national markets, and some decorative and semi-precious stones even fulfill international demand.