Fire destroys Gilsonite mine processing plant in Bonanza

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 28 2011 5:11 p.m. MDT

A worker sprays water on the remains of a surface processing plant that caught fire early Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2011, at the American Gilsonite Co. facility in Bonanza, Uintah County.

Geoff Liesik, For the Deseret News

BONANZA, Uintah County — An early morning fire destroyed one of two American Gilsonite Co. processing plants Wednesday.

The fire began about 12:30 a.m., according to Uintah Fire District Executive Director Jeremy Raymond. It was unknown whether the plant was in operation at the time, but there were American Gilsonite employees in the area.

Stuart Green, chief operating officer and senior vice president for American Gilsonite's Bonanza mining operations, said no one was injured in the blaze.

"We're very happy about that," Green said.

It took firefighters from Jensen, Naples and Vernal more than eight hours to extinguish  the fire out.

Investigators with the Bureau of Land Management were in Bonanza Wednesday and officials with the federal Mining Safety and Health Administration were expected to arrive later. The Utah State Fire Marshal's Office is also expected to send an investigator to the scene, which is about 40 miles south of Vernal.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Raymond said.

Gilsonite is a unique industrial mineral found only in eastern Utah, according to American Gilsonite's corporate website.

The company and its predecessors have been providing Gilsonite products and services since 1888. The glossy black, solid hydrocarbon resin, which is similar in appearance to coal, was first discovered in 1860 by Samuel H. Gilson.

Gilsonite is used in the manufacture of acid, alkali, and waterproof coatings.

Geoff Liesik, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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