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Top 10 Minerals Mined in the U.S.

By Marc Poirier on 07/21/2016

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From construction to dentistry, American industries of all shapes and sizes rely on a variety of minerals sourced on our home turf.

It’s safe to say that our infrastructure, industry, and American way of life depend upon mining. Everything from the buildings we work in, to the airplanes we cross the country with, to the tools that maintain our health owe their existence to products extracted right here in the United States. Let’s take a look at the origins of the top 10 minerals mined in our 50 states, and the essential role they play in our daily lives.

1. Copper

One of the most diverse minerals known to man, copper is employed in building construction, wiring and tubing, and even — thanks to its antimicrobial properties — medical equipment. The most substantial copper mines are located in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana.

2. Feldspar

This rock-forming mineral has particular importance in the glass and ceramics industries because it acts as a fluxing agent; this means that it reduces the melting temperature of quartz, thereby helping to control the viscosity of glass. Feldspar is also one of the most common minerals in existence, forming approximately 60% of earth’s terrestrial rocks.

3. Lithium

While lithium is most famous for its use in batteries, the mineral also has applications in the production of aluminum, the manufacture of lubricants and greases, and even Vitamin A synthesis. While the United States is primarily import-reliant for lithium, this could be changing: a major brine operation in Nevada recently received a $2 billion commitment from Tesla, according to Fortune.

4. Silver

Beyond making it an attractive metal for coins and jewelry, silver’s unique physical properties make it ideal for use in electronics, water distillation, mirrors, and vats for chemical reactions and storage. In the U.S., silver is produced primarily in Alaska and Nevada, which together boast more than 30 base and precious metal mines.

5. Gold

Like its copper and silver cousins, gold has an incredibly diverse range of uses, from dental care to satellites. The precious metal is a crucial component of microchips, monetary systems, and even the battle against cancer. If you’re looking to pan for your own gold, head west to Nevada and Alaska, the two biggest U.S. producers.

6. Iron Ore

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Without iron ore, we would have no steel — and how different urban American infrastructure would look today. Additionally, radioactive iron is used in medicine, while its pigment has proven valuable in paints, plastics, inks, and cosmetics. In the U.S., Michigan and Minnesota take the top spots for iron ore production.

7. Lead

Lead is uniquely effective at protecting against X-ray and gamma radiation, and is used in protective coatings and for sound proofing construction materials. The mineral is also a key component of lead-acid batteries, and is primarily extracted from mines in Missouri.

8. Nickel

This metallic mineral, largely mined in Oregon and Michigan, is essential as an alloy for stainless steel. Nickel is found in many common industrial and consumer products, ranging from guitar strings to plumbing fixtures, and is equally important to the chemical and aerospace industries.

9. Beryllium

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Beryllium’s unique strength and light weight make it well-suited to applications within the nuclear and aircraft industries. It is one of the lightest metals in existence, but has among the highest melting points, making it a powerful tool in defense applications, reports LiveScience. A single mine at Spor Mountain in Utah produced more than 85% of the world’s beryllium in 2010.

10. Molybdenum

Molybdenum is used in small quantities to harden steels, and it’s also found in many alloys. Due to its strength and resistance to change under high temperatures, molybdenum is especially useful in nuclear power plants and aircraft engines, reports Chemicool. The highest-producing molybdenum mines are found in Colorado.

To keep the mines producing these essential minerals operating at their highest (and safest) capacity, proper dust control and soil stabilization are critical. Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. offers industry-leading solutions, reducing dust by up to 95% to optimize the efficiency of access and haul roads and material handling operations. We depend on mines and the minerals they produce every day — and these mines depend on Midwest.

(Image credit: fill/Pixabay; Daniel Mennerich/flickr; NASA's Marshall Flight Center/flickr)

About Author

Marc Poirier

Written by Marc Poirier

Marc Poirier is Midwest's Engineering Technology Manager for the Mining group. His primary focus is Mining & Industrial Solutions.

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