Forget coal — alabaster is where the mining action is on Utah’s former Grand Staircase monument

By Brian Maffly

Environmentalists fear that coal mines loom on the horizon for lands removed from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, but the first mineral to be extracted there may have more to do with soul-inspiring art than climate-altering emissions.

Think alabaster, the creamy, translucent rock that is ideal for carving into decorative objects.

Exposed deposits of the delicate form of calcium sulfate happened to be found among the 900,000 acres President Donald Trump removed from the monument. An area known as Butler Valley, south of Henrieville, was actively quarried when President Bill Clinton designated the monument in 1996.

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