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|J. David Love of the US Geological Survey, whose airborne and on-the-ground fieldwork confirmed the existence of uranium deposits around Pumpkin Buttes in the early 1950's.
Uranium was first discovered in Wyoming in 1918 and demand for the resource boomed when the
Cold War began. The U.S. government cornered the domestic uranium supply with a guaranteed
price to producers. Wyoming and its economy flourished with the sudden demand for
Wyoming has the largest uranium reserves in the United States, and produced the energy equivalent of 5.9 billion barrels of fuel oil or 1.9 billion tons of coal. Yellowcake (the material created by uranium) is produced in 7 facilities through the country, three of which are located in Wyoming. The three plants in Wyoming account for 81% of yellowcake produced in the United States.
Uranium was first discovered in the Red Desert, and shortly after World War II, Congress established the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to provide the circulation and procurement of uranium ores as tension grew between the United States and Russia. The AEC set minimum prices, bonuses for the discovery of new deposits, and other incentives for high-grade ores, haulage allowances and more to encourage prospectors to mine for and sell the mineral to the government.
The discovery of more uranium in Wyoming gave way to uranium fever. Prospectors headed west, and they, along with ranchers, postured for potential stakes. However, due to split estates in the west, and the abundance of government owned mineral, lawyers benefited the most from the uranium boom. Not only did the uranium market amp up the Wyoming economy, but it brought people to the west and caused the state to grow in more ways than one.
This article is provided through our partnership with the Wyoming State Historical Society.