What is Gilsonite?
Gilsonite is a natural, resinous hydrocarbon. This natural asphalt
or Natural bitumen is similar to
hard petroleum asphalt and is often called a natural asphalt, asphaltite,
uintaite, or asphaltum. Gilsonite is soluble in aromatic and aliphatic solvents,
as well as petroleum asphalt. Due to its unique compatibility, Gilsonite is
frequently used to harden softer petroleum products. Gilsonite in mass is a
shiny, black substance similar in appearance to the mineral obsidian. It is
brittle and can be easily crushed into a dark brown powder.
Gilsonite is found below the earth's surface in vertical veins or seams
that are generally between two and six feet in width, but can be as wide
as 28 feet. The veins are nearly parallel to each other and are oriented
in a northwest to southeast direction. They extend many miles in length
and as deep as 1500 feet. The vein will show up on the surface as a thin
outcropping and gradually widen as it goes deeper. Due to the narrow
mining face, Gilsonite is mined today, much like it was 50 or 100 years
ago. The primary difference is that modern miners use pneumatic chipping
hammers and mechanical hoists.