SCIENCE

Utah awarded grant to study critical mineral deposit, only found in West Desert

Nov 9, 2022, 1:42 PM | Updated: 1:52 pm
Drill cores of brown rock Sphalerite....
Drill cores of Sphalerite, from 2022 exploration of West Desert. Sphalerite is known for containing zinc, but samples found in West Desert also have a high concentration of Idium. (Utah Department of Natural Resources)
(Utah Department of Natural Resources)

JUAB COUNTY, Utah — The Utah Geological Survey has been awarded a federal grant to study Utah’s West Desert and its valuable mineral deposit.

One of those minerals contains indium, which is used to create touchscreens for smartphones and display panels, along with other industrial uses, like windshields and solar panels.

Last year, the U.S. relied entirely on importing indium from China, Canada, South Korea and France. No indium was produced in the United States in 2021.

The deposits found in Utah are the only established resource of indium in the United States. It is estimated that there is enough indium there to supply demand in the U.S. for nearly 10 years.

It is found in sphalerite, which also provides a resource of zinc and copper.

Close up of Sphalerite, showing colors and crystal formations in the mineral.

Close-up of a sphalerite specimen. (Scott Horvath, USGS)

“We are excited for the opportunity to study the unique geology of this deposit and learn more about why so many important critical mineral resources are concentrated here,” senior geologist with the Utah Geological Survey and principal investigator of this study Stephanie Mills said.

The study will go on for three years, working with American West Metals Ltd. to develop the West Desert deposit and provide material and information to Utah Geological Survey.

The grant focuses on supplying critical minerals in the U.S., as well as emerging the importance of West Desert in the supply chain, according to American West Metals Ltd.

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Utah awarded grant to study critical mineral deposit, only found in West Desert