Free films depict Steen-era uranium mining
Mar 21, 2013 | 2174 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Steve Kadel

Staff Writer

Two films depicting the 1950s Moab-area mining era and uranium king Charlie Steen will be screened Friday evening, March 22, at the Museum of Moab, 118 E. Center St.

“This is Mi Vida” and “Million Dollar Drill Holes” will be played back-to-back beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission will be free, although Travis Schenck, the museum’s director, said donations will be gladly accepted

The films were both produced by Steen, who, in the 1950s, staked dozens of uranium mining claims in Big Indian Wash in Lisbon Valley. Steen had developed his own theory about the geology of the region and where and how to unlock ore deposits. One of his claims eventually yielded the mother lode – the largest deposit of pitchblende – the primary ore-mineral source of uranium – in U.S. history. The find transformed Steen into a multi-millionaire, and transformed the town of Moab into the “Uranium Capital of the World.”

“‘This is Mi Vida’ was named after [Steen’s] mine, which was named after a Peruvian love song,” Schenck said. “He produced these films in the late 1950s as a way to promote both of his businesses. They are sort of like documentaries.”

“Million Dollar Drill Holes” depicts the process of drilling and testing once a uranium claim has been made, Schenck said.

“It shows the genesis of a lot of roads we are familiar with today for biking, and why those roads were made,” he said. “‘This is Mi Vida’ shows ore being carried through town and the process of milling it into high grade yellow uranium.”

Schenck said the films are interesting because they show what the mining industry of that period thought was important to portray.

“It’s a really neat look at Moab in the 1950s and the mining industry,” he said.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Steen’s rags-to-riches story captured the public imagination and made him an American icon while also putting Moab on the map as the country’s biggest uranium boom town. During his years in Moab, Steen donated land for churches and schools, helped build entire neighborhoods in town to house the employees of his mining operations. He was also elected to serve in the Utah Senate. Steen died in Colorado Jan. 1, 2006, at the age of 86.

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