The Green River area in Sweetwater County is known as the "Trona Capital of the World." So, what is trona? It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is chemically known as sodium sesquicarbonate. Trona is the raw material which is refined into soda ash. Soda ash, in turn, is used to make glass, paper products, laundry detergents, and many other products. It also is used in the manufacturing of other chemicals, such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium phosphates (detergents).
Egyptian & Roman Uses
Ancient Egyptians first used soda ash over 5,000 years ago. They recovered the chemical from dry lake-bed deposits or manufactured it by burning seaweed and other marine plants. This crude product was used to make glass ornaments and vessels. The Romans also used it for baking bread, making glass, and as medicine.
The trona in Sweetwater County was created by an ancient body of water which became known as Lake Gosiute. In the course of geologic time, the lake shrunk. With the loss of outflows, high amount of alkaline (salt brine) began to evaporate, depositing the beds of trona. It is reported that Southwestern Wyoming contains the world's largest known bed of trona.
Current Trona Industry
The current trona industry had its beginning in Sweetwater County in 1938 during oil and gas explorations. The first mine shaft was excavated in 1946. Since that initial discovery, several mines and processing plants have been operating in the area, along with a baking soda plant.
Major Area Employers
These major area employers, located west of Green River, include:
Ciner Wyoming LP
TATA Chemicals North America
Solvay Minerals Inc.
Church and Dwight Company Inc.
The trona industry has become a major economic base for Sweetwater County.
For more information about trona and its history in Green River, contact the City of Green River at (307) 872-6136.