Trona, hydrated sodium bicarbonate carbonate, is a water-bearing compound. It is the type mineral so-to-speak for several sodium carbonates that form in non-marine evaporite deposits. The color is gray, colorless, white, pale brown or yellowish. Other sodium carbonates include gaylussite, natron, pirssonite, northupite, nahcolite and thermonatrite.
Trona is probably the most common and well known of these minerals. They are all difficult to tell apart from each other except when good crystal form is present or when optical or X-ray techniques can be used. All are subject to dehydration and/or hydration to one degree or another and should be stored in sealed containers for this reason.
All may form as efflorescent crusts on the walls of caves and mines or in soils in arid regions. Trona gets its name from a discarded Arabic word for native salt, "tron", which is derived from the word "natrun".
Wyoming's Trona industry produced over 16.7 million tons, employing 3,085 mine and processing plant workers in 1999. All Wyoming trona is mined underground, with most of it being in the area of Green River. The trona is mined, then processed into soda ash or bicarbonate of soda, for a variety of uses. Wyoming has the world's largest deposit of trona, and supplies about 90% of the nation's soda ash.
Glassmaking consumes about half of soda ash output, followed by the chemical industry, which uses about a quarter of the output. Other uses include soap, paper manufacturing, and water treatment. All baking soda comes from soda ash, so you may have a boxful of a Wyoming trona product right in your kitchen.
Wyoming's trona originated as a precipitate from an ancient large freshwater lake. About 50 million years ago, Lake Gosiute covered as much as 15,000 square miles in southwestern Wyoming. Over a long period of evaporation, minerals settled to the lake bed to form the trona deposit which we mine today.
The U.S. has traditionally exported soda ash derived from trona. Current challenges to the industry include a slump in export demand due to the Asian economic slump, and new competition for the export market, particularly from China.
Last Update 01/28/01
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