Mine Tales: U.S. Four Corners area was great producer of vanadium – by William Ascarza (Arizona Daily Star – May 16, 2016)


William Ascarza is an archivist, historian and author of seven books available for purchase online and at select bookstores. 

Principal vanadium production in Arizona has come from the Four Corners area in northeastern Arizona and Mammoth located in southeastern Arizona.

The Four Corners area is the far greater producer, having accounted for 90 percent of Arizona vanadium output from vanadium-uranium deposits in sandstone. The ore averages 1 percent or more of vanadium, making it enough to mine at a profit. Several notable locations include the Morrison Formation in the Carrizo Mountains, Chilchinbito areas and the Chinle Formation in the Monument Valley area of Apache and Navajo counties.

Considered a byproduct of uranium mining, vanadium is a metal element highly sought after because of its application as a strengthening agent for steel. It has also been used in nonferrous alloys and chemicals. Vanadium pentoxide, an important compound of vanadium, has commercial qualities as a catalyst for industrial reactions, including a coloring agent for ceramics and glass, and as a dye for textiles.

The discovery of radium by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898 and subsequent discovery of its ability to slow cancerous growths led to a heightened effort to mine the uranium ores that contained this new element. Carnotite deposits were actively mined in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah to fill the great demand after 1910. Carnotite, a bright yellow mineral also known as a potassium uranium vanadate, is also an ore of vanadium and uranium.

In 1918, John F. Wade made discoveries of uranium/vanadium mineral outcrops in the Carrizo Mountains located in northeastern Arizona. A congressional act passed in June 1919 opened the Navajo reservation up to prospecting and mining.

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