Nonmetallic Industrial Mineral Resources of the U.S.

Science Center Objects

In 2012, this project initiated a multi-year effort to characterize domestic nonmetallic industrial mineral resources that are important for national infrastructure, agriculture, and energy development. Activities included (1) a national-scale compilation of production data, providing a snapshot of the nonmetallic industrial mineral deposits that were of significance through the 20th century and earliest part of this century, (2) an overview of frac sand, (3) an introductory study of potash, and (4) sand and gravel in southwestern Wyoming.

Science Issue and Relevance

Nonmetallic industrial minerals represent the largest sector of the domestic nonfuel minerals industry both in terms of production and their contribution to gross national product. Nonmetallic industrial minerals are geologic materials that are mined for their commercial value, but are not fuel and are not sources of metals (metallic minerals). Individually and in aggregate, the significance of nonmetallic industrial mineral commodities in our lifestyle and economy cannot be overstated. In an average year, metallics account for about one-third of the U.S. non-fuel mineral production, aggregates (ex. sand, stone, gravel) account for one third, and the other non-metallics account for the remaining one third. For this reason alone, USGS continues to maintain and foster expertise and research on nonmetallic industrial mineral resources and contributes to the discovery, development, and science of industrial mineral deposits. In 2012, this project initiated a multi-year effort to characterize domestic nonmetallic industrial mineral resources that are important for national infrastructure, agriculture, and energy development. Activities included (1) a national-scale compilation of production data, providing a snapshot of the nonmetallic industrial mineral deposits that were of significance through the 20th century and earliest part of this century, (2) an overview of frac sand, (3) an introductory study of potash, and (4) sand and gravel in southwestern Wyoming.

Focus Areas

Industrial Minerals Through Time: Nonmetallic industrial minerals represent the largest sector of the domestic nonfuel minerals industry. In 2012, we began a multi-year effort to characterize the domestic nonmetallic industrial mineral resources that are important for national infrastructure, agriculture, and energy development. In 2007, at the 43rd Forum of the Geology of Industrial Minerals, USGS research geologists Bill Langer and Anna Wilson presented a paper explaining a novel approach for organizing and visualizing the industrial mineral commodities that were produced in 17 Western States during a century of U.S. growth. Utilizing data from the Minerals Yearbook from 1906 to 2005, they were able to find recorded production for 28 industrial minerals in the 17 States over that time period. The 2007 study will be updated and modified as necessary.

Potash: We published an updated report about the agricultural importance, geologic deposit models, geochemistry, sources (both historical and new), mining technology, and global supply chain of potash. The updated report addressed recent research that investigates potash sources from silicate minerals and rocks that may be effective when used in agricultural applications.

Underground mining operations, Carlsbad, New Mexico, Intrepid Potash Company, Carlsbad West Mine

Underground mining operations, Carlsbad, New Mexico
(Credit: Doug Yager, USGS. Public Domain)

Moab, Utah, Potash In Situ Solution Mining and Solar Evaporation

Moab, Utah, Potash In Situ Solution Mining and Solar Evaporation
(Credit: Doug Yager, USGS. )

Sand and Gravel in Southwestern Wyoming: This research is conducted in collaboration with the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative Project, a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary study. We refined a geospatial map of sand and gravel deposits relative to Quaternary and unconsolidated to loosely consolidated deposits.

Phosphate Deposit Models: We plan to publish a report on sedimentary phosphate (phosphorite) that uses current theories of phosphogenesis to support a new integrative classification system for the formation of phosphorite deposits. A new geospatial map with U.S. phosphate deposit and occurrences is also planned.

Frac Sand Resources: Frac sand is used by the petroleum industry as a proppant in hydraulic fracturing to increase the flow of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs. The objectives were to describe the physical characteristics and geologic origin of frac sand, identify the formations known to produce or to have potential to produce frac sand, and track where frac sand is being used.

Microscopic view of Saint Peter frac sand

St. Peter frac sand. 
​​​​​​​(Credit: Mary Ellen Benson, USGS. )

Map of producing and potential frac sand and resin-coated source units in the conterminous United States.

Map of producing and potential frac sand and resin-coated source units in the conterminous United States, from Rock Products, May 2015.
(Public Domain)

 

Return to Mineral Resources Program | Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center