Gilsonite, also known as "uintahite", "asphaltum" or asphaltite, is a naturally occurring soluble solid hydrocarbon, a form of asphalt (or bitumen) with a relatively high melting temperature. Its large-scale production occurs in the Uintah Basin of Utah and Colorado, United States. Although the substance has been historically mined in the Uintah Basin, resources are being discovered and mined more recently in other countries such as Colombia and Iran. Gilsonite is mined in underground shafts and resembles shiny black obsidian.
Gilsonite was discovered in the 1860s. By 1888 Samuel H. Gilson had started a company to mine the substance, but soon discovered the vein was on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Under great political pressure Congress removed some 7,000 acres (28 km2) from the reservation on May 24, 1888 to allow mining to proceed legally. Gilsonite mining became the first large commercial enterprise in the Uintah Basin, causing most of its early population growth.
Mining gilsonite during World War II was manual, using a six-pound pick, then shoveling the ore into 200 pound sacks, which were sewn by hand. In 1949 at the Parriette Gilsonite mine near Myton, Utah, Reed Smoot McConkie set the world record for ore mined by hand. Using his pick and shovel, he mined 175 bags of ore in eight hours, 950 bags in a six-day week, 1925 bags in a month and 15,000 bags in one year.
Gilsonite-brand uintahite's earliest applications included paints for buggies and emulsions for beer-vat lining. It was used by Ford Motor Company as a principal component of the japan black lacquer used on most of the Ford Model T cars.
Gilsonite is categorized as a soluble material in oil solutions such as CS2 or TCE (trichloroethylene). A major component of gilsonite is carbon; it also contains several other elements including nitrogen and sulfur and some volatile compounds.
Reserves and uses
Gilsonite is used in more than 160 products, primarily in dark-colored printing inks and paints, oil well drilling muds and cements, asphalt modifiers, foundry sand additives, and a wide variety of chemical products. The trademark, registered in 1921, belongs to the American Gilsonite Company which filed for bankruptcy and after accepting re-organization seems to emerge from it at Jan 3rd 2017.
A common application of gilsonite is in bitumen blending. This application is practiced in countries such as China, India and Iran.
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- American Gilsonite Company
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