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Mining in USA

State of the Industry Review

Written by Wade Barnes - May 2006

Country Analyst Vince Peckham
Table of Contents

The USGS provides a mineral commodity review each year for the various commodities produced. The following is a brief overview of the top minerals produced.

The principal mining states are Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana. The US was the third highest producer of copper in 2005. The Morenci open-pit mine in Arizona, operated by Phelps Dodge, produced 410,000 tons of cathode copper in 2005.

As of 2005, molybdenum was produced from eight mines and the US was the top producer in the world. Molybdenum ore was produced at three primary molybdenum mines, one each in Colorado, Idaho, and New Mexico, whereas five copper mines recovered molybdenum as a byproduct. An example of a molybdenum mine in the US is the Questa Molybdenum Underground Mine located in New Mexico and operated by Molycorp Inc.

As of 2005, gold was produced at about 50 major lode mines, a dozen or more large placer mines, and numerous smaller placer mines. In addition, a small amount of domestic gold was recovered as a byproduct of processing base metals, chiefly copper. The US was the third largest gold-producing nation in 2005, after Australia and South Africa. As of 2005, Nevada accounted for 83% of the US gold production with the Goldstrike Mine owned by Barrick Gold Corporation being the main gold contributor.

Iron Ore
As of 2005, ten iron ore operations with 10 mines, 8 concentration plants, and 8 pelletizing plants were operating in the US. The iron ore resources are mainly low-grade taconite-type ores from the Lake Superior district that require beneficiation and agglomeration for commercial use. The US was seventh in Iron Ore production in 2005.

Zinc is produced in 5 States by 10 mines operated by 5 companies. Alaska, Missouri, Montana, and Washington accounted for about 99.9% of domestic output; the Teck Cominco owned Red Dog open-pit Mine in Alaska accounted for 86% of total U.S. production. The US was the sixth highest producer of zinc in 2005.

Most of the total lead produced in the US is from six lead mines in Missouri plus lead-producing mines in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Washington. Primary lead was processed at one smelter-refinery in Missouri. The US was the third highest producer of lead in the world in 2005. The Teck Cominco owned Red Dog open-pit Mine in Alaska produced 113,800 tons of lead in 2005.

Stone, Sand and Gravel
The NSSGA companies produce more than 92% of the crushed stone and 75% of the sand and gravel consumed annually in the US. More than three billion tons of aggregates (or 2.91 billion tonnes) were produced in 2005 at a value of approximately US$17.4 billion, contributing US$38 billion to the GDP of the US. The aggregates industry workforce is made up of about 117,000 men and women. Nearly two-thirds of the non-fuel minerals mined each year in the US are aggregates.

Oil and Gas
As of 2004 the US accounted for 7.4% of the world’s total 2004 crude oil production. Over one quarter of the crude oil produced in the US is produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The top crude oil-producing states are: Texas, Alaska, California, Louisiana, and New Mexico. The Energy Information Administration petroleum section, as part of the Official Energy Statistics from the US Government, provides a more detailed description of facts about the petroleum industry in relation to the US. The Energy Resources Program with the USGS provides various national and international research studies and evaluations in relation to the oil and gas industry. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) offers a good overview of the oil and gas industry.

The US is the world’s second largest coal producer after China, as of year ended 2004. Coal is produced in the Appalachian, Western and Interior regions of the US. The Energy Information Administration provides the Official Energy Statistics from the US Government for coal production and consumption. The Energy Resources Program with the USGS provides various national and international research studies in relation to the coal industry. The American Coal Foundation helps develop, produce, and disseminate coal-related educational materials and programs designed for teachers and students.

For more information on these commodities and more from a global perspective visit Infomine’s commodities page.

The Environmental Impact of Mining
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides the various environmental laws and regulations for the environmental protection and what to do incase of an accident in a mine or exploration setting.

The Environmental Division of SME provides a means for cooperation and communication among professionals in the minerals industry engaged in any aspect of the physical environment and its condition.

There are several other legal acts enforced to protect the land and the environment including the health and safety of all living creatures within that environment.

The Future of Mining
The future of mining in the US is dependent upon several factors such as, sustainability, adequate supply of trained workers, environmental constraints, and mine safety. One of the main factors in mining is the safety of the coal mines. This is a major concern as accidents scare people away from the mining sector through investment and employment. There is a need to ensure the safety at the coal mines, as well as others, to promote a positive image for the mine industry along with continued growth.

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Price of Gold
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