Industrial minerals in Nevada


production in terms of dollar value, Nevada’s mining industry has been dominated
by gold production since 1982. However, industrial mineral production in the state is
significant, currently about 15 percent of the total value of the annual mineral production.
The estimated annual values for Nevada’s industrial minerals increased from
$322 million to $425 million over the past decade. In order of estimated value, the
most important Nevada industrial minerals in 2003 were construction aggregate,
lime, diatomite, cement, gypsum, magnesia and magnesium minerals, barite, silica,
and clay, each valued at more than $10 million. Produced commodities with values of
less than $10 million were lithium, dolomite, perlite, dimension stone, salt, zeolite,
potassium alum, and gemstones.
The estimated yearly values for construction aggregate, the state’s leading industrial
mineral commodity, rose from $125 million to $165 million over the past decade.
Sand and gravel accounts for about 75 percent of this value, but the crushed stone
component of aggregate production has increased steadily during the decade.
In 1997, lime supplanted diatomite as Nevada’s second most valuable industrial
mineral. High-calcium lime, much of which is used in gold ore processing, comes from
two plants, one in northeastern Nevada and one near Las Vegas. Both process Devonian
high-calcium limestone. Dolomitic lime, a variant mainly used in construction,
comes from near Las Vegas. Diatomite, mainly marketed as filtration products, in
mined from several Tertiary lacustrine deposits, all in western Nevada.
Cement is produced at a plant in northwestern Nevada, and there are plans for a
major cement plant in the Las Vegas area. Gypsum is mined from Permian to
Miocene deposits at two sites in northwestern Nevada and three sites near Las Vegas.
Barite was Nevada’s second most valuable mineral commodity in the early 1980s,
when it came from 34 mines. It is now mined from only 5 bedded Ordovician and
Devonian deposits. Lithium chemicals are extracted from brine at Silver Peak, currently
the only domestic lithium producer.
Five companies mine clay from more than ten Tertiary deposits in Nevada,
including the only commercial sepiolite and saponite deposits in the United States.
Light-burned magnesia is manufactured from magnesite mined in central Nevada.
Silica comes from two deposits, with the largest production from friable Cretaceous
sandstone in southern Nevada.

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Primary Author

Stephen Castor