History in Focus: The atomic age – by James Neton (Craig Daily Press – April 10, 2021)


In November of 1953, a small Cessna 179 piloted by Russell Cutter, a geologist for Arrowhead Uranium Corporation, flew in low over the area just north of Lay and Mabyell.

The readings from his on board portable Halross Scintillation Counter, a device used to measure radiation and the presence of uranium, confirmed Cutter’s hopes. The atomic age had arrived in Moffat County.

After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended WWII, the Soviet Union detonated their first bomb in 1949. The ensuing arms race set off a scramble to discover and mine uranium, the crucial fissile material for nuclear weapons and energy. As demand skyrocketed, attention quickly focused on previously known deposits in our local Brown’s Park sandstone.

After Cutter’s flight, a group of stockholders of Arrowhead Uranium Corporation formed Trace Elements Corporation (TEC) and quickly purchased mining leases on a strip of public and private lands eight miles wide and four miles long in the area west of Sugar Loaf Mountain, just three miles northeast of Maybell, and slightly north of Highway 40 (Craig Empire Courier, 8/10/55).

Exploratory drilling was conducted to verify and chart the quantity and quality of the uranium outcroppings. In August of 1955, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) signed a five year agreement with Trace Elements to build a mill to extract uranium from 300 tons of ore per day (Craig Empire Courier, 8/17/55).

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