Def. industrial minerals – naturally occurring, inorganic, non-metallic-appearing rocks and minerals that enter into commerce, e.g., sand, crushed stone, zeolites.
Gold glitters! But in Arizona, it’s the industrial minerals that shine – to the tune of 1.7 billion dollars in 2007 (Source: Niemuth, 2008). If copper is the thoroughbred of the Arizona mineral industry, industrial minerals are surely the workhorse.
The sand, gravel, and broken and splintered rock that blanket the Arizona landscape – collectively referred to as aggregate -- are a mineral bonanza. And every building activity, from homes to industrial buildings, to roads and bridges, includes these natural stone and mineral products.
Of the more than 400 active mines in Arizona in 2007, most quarry industrial minerals. And as frequently as not, it’s the geologic mapping and reports of the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) that sheds first light on these valuable rock products. Exploration geologists pore over our surficial geologic maps for the key to economic mineral deposits. (Check out some free related downloads to the right)
In no particular order, Arizona’s industrial minerals include: limestone, dolostone, sand, specialty sands, gravel, clays, bentonite, pumice & pumicite, perlite, diatomite, kyanite, zeolites, peridot, salt, potash, quartz sands, gypsum, talc, and crushed stone – marble, granite, quartzite, basalt and cinders, among others.
The products manufactured using Arizona’s industrial minerals are legion: concrete, brick, veneer stone, glass & ceramics, tiles, putty & caulking, toothpaste, jewelry – from semi-precious stones, kitty litter, roofing shingles, planes, trains & automobiles, asphalt, plastics, optical fibers, drilling fluids, wallboard, pencils & papers, just to name a few.
Now we freely admit that Arizona does lack a few industrial minerals. Several years ago, for instance, we received a request from Japan for quartz-free andesite; apparently, it’s the preferred whetstone for samurai swords. We have yet to locate a deposit of quartz-free andesite, but we are still on the hunt.
ARPA –- Arizona Rock Products Association
USGS – Arizona State Minerals Information
ASLD – Arizona State Lands Department
N. Niemuth, 2008, ADMMR OFR-08-04 Arizona’s Metallic Resources – Trends and Opportunities.
Photos above by Lee Allison, Director of AZGS and Arizona State Geologist.