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Sweetwater County soda ash mine to create hundreds of jobs

The town of Green River, Wyoming.
The town of Green River, Wyoming.

Sweetwater County will see a new soda ash mining project in the next eight years, potentially creating hundreds of mining jobs.

Soda ash is a material that is refined from the mineral trona. Although it is not a common household term, soda ash is one of the most consumed inorganic compounds in the world.

“It is an invisible ingredient that everybody uses everyday,” said Oguz Erkan, CEO of a leading producer of natural soda ash, Ciner U.S.

Soda ash is in everything from glass, detergents, makeup, baking powder and even soft drinks.

WE Soda, which is under the parent company of Ciner, announced plans for the new mining project near Green River Wednesday. Project West will add to the company’s existing project in the area called Pacific Soda.

The U.S. produces the second-most soda ash in the world behind China. Ninety percent of the U.S. supply comes from the Green River Basin.

“Green River is on top of the world's largest soda ash reserves,” Erkan said. “There's enough for the next 2000 years.”

Erkan said the new project will create 300 permanent jobs and 1,500 to 2,000 temporary jobs. The goal is for Project West to be fully operational by 2030, but some federal permitting will need to happen first.

“The sooner the permits are done, Ciner is proud to say we have the financing and construction and ability and definitely the know-how,” he said. “So the sooner the better for us.”

It is thought that Wyoming’s trona supply formed about 60 million years ago from mud, fish and other minerals at the bottom of an ancient freshwater lake.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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