Utah's mining industry should remain generally stable in 1991, with increased exploration expected for several minerals, says a University of Utah minerals economist and professor of mining engineering.

Charles W. Berry says coal production may reach a record 22.5 million short tons, and Kennecott Copper's metals productivity capacity should also increase because of a planned further expansion of its Utah operations.In an article published in the February issue of Utah Business magazine, Berry says Kennecott should produce about 500 million pounds of refined copper this year, about 400,000 troy ounces of gold, 2.8 million ounces er, and 11 million pounds of molybdenum in concentrate form.

Kennecott's Barney's Canyon gold surface mine-dump leach operation north of Bingham Canyon may produce 80,000 ounces, says Berry. Barrick's Mercur open pit mine near Tooele expects to extract 115,000 ounces of gold and Tenneco Minerals' new Goldstrike Mine northwest of St. George some 40,000 ounces of gold.

Geneva Steel owns iron deposits west of Cedar City that are mined by a contractor. The 550,000 tons of iron ore produced annually at the southwestern Utah mine feed operations at Geneva's Orem steel plant.

Utah's coal operators "continue to aggressively improve productivity,"says Berry, especially in longwall operations, although low prices are hurting some coal producers. The state is shipping high-quality coal to Taiwan, and there is potential for similar shipments in the future to markets in Japan and Korea.

"The outlook for Utah coal is optimistic, especially considering its relatively clean burning quality and its ample reserves."

The Utah professor expects the price of copper to remain above $1 per pound in 1991, with $1.15 per pound a "reasonable expectation." Production problems in Papua-New Guinea, Peru, Africa, Chile, and the Philippines should keep the price of copper up. However, two new large South American copper mines will begin operations in the early 1990s and could lead to an oversupply.

Gold prices should range between $350 to $410 an ounce. Large selling by the Soviet Union, Brazil, and probably Iraq, at least prior to the Persian Gulf war, have kept the price of gold below the levels some experts expected. Gold is "fairly insensitive" to mine production activity because the world's inventory is more than 50 times annual mine production. Inflation, interest rates, dollar exchange rates, and general political/military stability contribute to the price of gold.

Most Utah mining operators are attempting to lower costs through improved mineral engineering management, says Berry. The University of Utah College of Mines and Earth Sciences is active in a variety of research programs beneficial to Utah's mining industry and educates professionals for employment in the industry.

"Construction materials will probably be stable," Berry continues. "Cement shows some improvement, while other industrial minerals should either remain steady or register slight declines."

Gross 1991 sales from metal production should be $1 billion with industrial minerals sales at about $400 million, and coal gross sales at $540 million. Berry estimates 1991 gross sales from all Utah mining operations at about $2 billion.

Berry complimented the Utah Mining Association and the American Mining Congress for starting programs designed to keep the public informed of mining's importance to Utah's overall economic health. He says communicating with the public on the importance of mining is difficult, partly because the average citizen doesn't buy mineral products directly. For example, the person on the street doesn't buy a ton of iron but does purchase an automobile made of steel that is made from iron ore.

"Utah's mining industry is a key contributor to Utah's taxes and employment, especially when considering the significant multiplier effect," says Berry. More than 65 percent of the state's mining products are exported out of Utah, thus importing economic benefits.

For further information:

Professor Charles Berry, 581-5219