The Top 5 U.S. Minerals by Production Value

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In 2016, the United States mined $74.6 billion worth of minerals, and the following five mineral commodities accounted for 68.5 percent of that value.

Every year, the USGS National Minerals Information Center releases its Mineral Commodity Summaries, a resource roundup of 90 different mineral commodities that includes a snapshot of the global industry, worldwide reserves and production, and information on how these minerals are used.

Also included is an analysis of the domestic mineral industry of the United States, along with summaries of individual mineral commodity industries. So today, we thought we would share the top five U.S. mineral commodities by value from 2016.

Copper
A sample of native copper. Photograph credit: USGS(Public domain.)

Number 5: Copper

First up is copper, one of the first metals ever extracted and used by humans, and it has made vital contributions to sustaining and improving society since the dawn of civilization. In the United States, 44 percent of the copper produced in 2016 went to building construction, 19 percent went into transportation equipment, 18 percent went into electric and electronic products, and the rest went to a variety of other uses.

  • Total Value: $6.8 billion
  • Tonnage Produced (miner production): 1.41 million metric tons
  • Leading States: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Michigan
Image shows a sample of gold against a black background
A sample of native gold. Gold has been treasured since ancient times for its beauty and permanence.   Most of the gold that is fabricated today goes into the manufacture of jewelry, but it also performs critical functions in computers, communications equipment, spacecraft, jet aircraft engines, and a host of other products. Read more about gold here. Sample provided by Carlin Green, USGS. Sample originated from Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso, Brazil, and is 3.5cm in size.(Credit: Carlin Green, USGS. Public domain.)

Number 4: Gold

The number four spot needs no introduction—gold is one of the most famous minerals in the world. U.S. production was concentrated in the West, with Nevada and Alaska leading in production from both lode mines and placer deposits. The two primary uses for gold in the United States in 2016 were jewelry and electronics, with official coin production also a significant use.

  • Total Value: $8.5 billion
  • Tonnage Produced (mine production): 209 metric tons
  • Leading States: Nevada, Alaska
Image shows excavation equipment digging into banks of sand and gravel
A sand and gravel pit operation in northern Scotland.© Copyright alan souter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Number 3: Construction Sand and Gravel

Switching over from metals to construction materials, construction sand and gravel holds the number three spot. Construction sand and gravel is a countrywide affair, being produced in all 50 states. Just under one-half of the sand and gravel went to concrete aggregates, with the rest going to other construction uses like road base and stabilization, asphalt concrete, and construction fill.

  • Total Value: $8.9 billion
  • Tonnage Produced: 1.01 billion tons
  • Leading States: Texas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Utah
Image shows a pallet of bags of cement
A pallet of cement bags in Tunisia. By Oussama zrafi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25060498
(Public domain.)

Number 2: Cement

Holding the list together at number two is cement, both portland and masonry. Cement was produced in 34 states as well as Puerto Rico in 2016. The overwhelming majority of the cement went to concrete production.

  • Total Value: $10.7 billion in sales
  • Tonnage Produced: 85.4 million tons
  • Leading States: Texas, California, Missouri, Florida, and Alabama
Image shows a tall, triangular gray stone surrounded by grass and trees
Granite is an igneous rock that we’ve used for building materials for thousands of years. It’s name comes from the Latin word “granum,” meaning “grain,” which refers to the grains of quartz and feldspar that define granite. This one is from the Barre formation in Vermont.(Public domain.)

Number 1: Crushed Stone

And last, but certainly not least, is crushed stone, the driver of America’s transportation network. In 2016, about 76 percent of crushed stone went into road construction and maintenance, with another 11 percent going to cement manufacturing, 7 percent for lime production, and the rest for assorted other uses. The majority of the crushed stone was limestone, dolomite, or granite.

  • Total Value: $16.2 billion
  • Tonnage Produced: 1.48 billion tons
  • Leading States: Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Ohio,

So there are the top five U.S. minerals by production value for 2016! Check back next year to see who ranked in the top five for 2017. It’s likely that you’ll see familiar faces...but every now and again, there will be a surprise...