The 1991 outlook for mining in the Intermountain region appears solid, but production sales are likely to decrease slightly from 1990 because of the recession.

That's what University of Utah mineral economist and professor of mining engineering Charles W. Berry forecasts in an article published in the Jan. 28 special mining issue of Intermountain Contractor magazine.Prices for metal commodities are affected by international exchange prices, such as those on the London Metal Exchange. Prices for industrial minerals, including sand and gravel, potash, and salt, depend largely upon regional prices and transportation factors.

"Most coal is sold on long-term contracts, thus dampening year-to-year fluctuations," says Berry. "After the recession, the Intermountain West's mining industry is poised to take advantage of increased derived-demand in a cost competitive manner."

The eight-state Intermountain region has an active mining industry that produces 30 percent of the nation's mineral needs, says Berry.

Mining, including coal, copper and a variety of industrial minerals, is a key contributor to the economy of each of the eight states - Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona, he says.

More than 60 percent of the minerals produced in the eight-state region are exported, thus importing economic activity into the states, says Berry. And many of the mines in the region have invested in the kind of plant and equipment modernization that has improved their competitiveness in the world market.

Berry thinks mines can co-exist with natural areas through good design and management, with the key word being "balance." Sound engineering and management practices can mitigate environmental effects, he said. The eight-state Intermountain West has mineral engineering and science education and research institutions in each state. Those institutions are University of Arizona, University of Idaho, University of Nevada, University of Utah, University of Wyoming, Colorado School of Mines, Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

In addition, several two-year colleges in the region offer programs in mining technology, and many of the institutions have short courses invarious mineral engineering and management subjects. Other large schools in the region teach and conduct research in economic geology and other mineral-related engineering disciplines.

"The universities are the source for future engineers, scientists, and managers, and perform needed mineral research. Their faculties serve the industry primarily in their roles as academicians and sometimes as consultants."

"Much of the Intermountain West land is owned by the federal government," Berry explains. "Mining of coal, trona, and other marketable minerals on federal land mineral rights are subject to a mineral leasing bonus and/or royalty. Fifty percent of such federal mineral leasing funds are shared with the states and that's important to all eight states, especially Wyoming."