Miscellaneous Nonmetallic Minerals, Except Fuels

SIC 1499

Industry report:

This category covers establishments that primarily mine, quarry, mill, or otherwise prepare nonmetallic minerals, except fuels. This industry includes shaping natural abrasive stones at the quarry. Establishments that primarily produce blast, grinding, or polishing sand are classified in SIC 1446: Industrial Sand, and those calcining gypsum are classified in SIC 3275: Gypsum Products.

Some of the most economically significant minerals mined by industry firms included garnet, gemstones, graphite, gypsum, industrial diamonds, perlite, and quartz. Other minerals produced by the industry include asbestos, asphalt, burrstone, calcite, catlinite, corundum, cryolite, diatomite, emery, fill dirt, gilsonite, greensand, Iceland spar, meerschaum, mica, millstone, oilstone, ozokerite, peat, pipestone, pozzolana, pumice, pyrophyllite, rubbing stone, scoria, scythestone, vermiculite, whetstone, wollastonite, and wurtzilite.

Garnet was used primarily for industrial applications, particularly as an abrasive or as a filtration medium. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated worldwide garnet production to be about 1.4 million metric tons, with the United States as the fourth largest producers in 2009, following India, China, and Australia. In 2009, the United States produced 56,500 tons of garnet, down from 62,900 tons in 2008. The United States imported 41,100 tons and exported 8,140 tons, for an apparent consumption of 89,500 tons, down from 99,700 tons in 2008.

In 2009, the four U.S. companies (one in Idaho, one in Montana, and two in New York) that produced garnet with a combined production value of $7.96 million were Barton Mines Co. LLC in Warren County, New York; NYCO Minerals, Inc., in Essex County, New York; Emerald Creek Garnet Co. in Benewah County, Idaho; and Ruby Valley Garnet LLC, in Madison County, Montana. The United States was the largest consumer of industrial garnet in the world, and garnet was used for waterjet cutting (35 percent), abrasive blasting media (30 percent), water filtration (15 percent), abrasive powders (10 percent), and other end uses (10 percent).

Between 1999 and 2003, the United States shifted from being a net exporter to a net importer of industrial garnet. Although consumption over this period grew from 33.7 million metric tons to 58.9 million metric tons, production declined from 60.7 million metric tons to 38.7 million metric tons. Consequently, the United States became increasingly reliant on imports, which more than doubled between 1999 and 2003, growing from 12 million metric tons to 28.4 million metric tons. Australia accounted for 47 percent of U.S. imports; India, 35 percent; and China, 17 percent. Demand for industrial garnet was expected to remain strong through the early twenty-first century, due partly to growing demand in blasting markets.

Minerals are defined as gemstones less by geological properties than by end use--any mineral or other material whose aesthetic qualities recommended it for decorative or ornamental uses could be called a gem stone. The terms precious and semi-precious described the relative economic value of gemstones and other minerals, and most gemstones fell into the precious stone category, including jade, corundum (rubies and sapphires), diamond, quartz (amethyst and agate), garnet, turquoise, and several stones not included in the industry.

U.S. production of natural gemstones declined by 11 percent in 2009. The largest declines were in synthetic gemstones, which dropped 33 percent in production totals. Tennessee, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, California, North Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas, Colorado, Alabama, and Montana produced 86 percent of total U.S. output in 2009, with the remaining states producing the other 14 percent. Florida, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Arizona had facilities that produced synthetic gemstones.

Although the United States produced less than 1 percent of total global output, it was the largest market for gemstones in the world, accounting for about 35 percent of world demand. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the natural gemstones sector was valued at an estimated $11.3 million in 2006, a 16 percent decline over 2005. By 2007 the value of natural gemstones had increased 6 percent to $12 million. The United States remained the largest market for gemstones in the world through the mid-2000s, accounting for an estimated 35 percent of world demand with a value of more than $17.7 billion.

Estimated value of U.S. consumption of unset diamonds in 2009 was $13.7 billion. Consumption values fell by 30 percent from 2008. The drop in value was a reflection of the global recession that slowed luxury spending. The United States produced no gemstone diamonds in the late 1990s as the nation's only commercial diamond mine, Kelsey Lake in Colorado, had stopped production. The Kelsey Lake mine eventually was sold to Toronto-based McKenzie Bay International.

In 2009, the United States produced natural gemstones valued at $11.2 million and synthetic gemstones valued at $34.3 million. Reflecting the U.S. dependency on imports, imports of gemstones were valued at $14.5 billion in 2009, down from $20.9 billion in 2008.

Graphite is a soft, carbon-based mineral that is classified into two general types: natural and synthetic. Natural graphite is further subdivided into three types: flake, high-crystalline, and amorphous. Natural graphite is not produced in the United States but in 2009 about 100 firms used graphite for end uses. In 2009, natural graphite was used for refractory applications (24 percent), foundry operations (8 percent), brake linings (7 percent), lubricants (3 percent), and other applications (58 percent).

Although there was no natural graphite mined in the United States, 190,000 metric tons of synthetic graphite was produced in 2006 with a value of $1.03 billion. Graphite consumption in the United States declined from 43,200 metric tons to 40,500 metric tons from 2005 to 2006. Between 2005 and 2006, graphite exports increased from 56,200 metric tons to 58,600 metric tons. The United States imported the majority of its natural graphite from China and Mexico. World production of natural graphite was 1.03 metric tons, with China responsible for 720,000 metric tons.

U.S. production of gypsum remained flat in 2005 and 2006 at 21.1 million tons. In 2007, total tonnage increased to 22 million tons valued at about $165 million. The majority of gypsum production was concentrated in Oklahoma, Iowa, Nevada, California, Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, and Michigan, which were accountable for 77 percent of total tonnage. Manufacturers of wallboard and plaster products were responsible for nearly 87 percent of U.S. consumption, using an estimated 42.4 million tons. Imported gypsum from Canada and Mexico helped meet domestic demand. Industry leaders included U.S. Gypsum Corporation with nine mines; Georgia-Pacific Corporation and National Gypsum Company each with six mines; and Harrison Gypsum Company with five mines.

Imports of graphite for consumption in the United States were 59,000 and 58,000 metrics tons in 2007 and 2008, respectively, before plummeting to 21,000 in 2009 due to a lack of demand cause by the global economic crisis. In addition, the price of flake graphite rose dramatically, from an average of $499 per ton and $753 per ton in 2007 and 2008, respectively, to $866 per ton in 2009. Demand for graphite is expected to increase as large-scale fuel cell applications are being developed that would consume large amounts of graphite.

The United States, once largest producer and consumer of gypsum in the world, was the second largest producer/consumer in 2009, behind China, which produced three times the amount of the United States. The majority of gypsum was used for the manufacture of wallboard and plaster products. Gypsum was also used for cement production, as well as in agricultural applications, smelting, and glassmaking. The industry experienced a sharp decline in 2009 cause by the deep drop in the U.S. housing and construction market. Production, which reached 21.1 million metric tons in 2005 and 2006 during the housing bubble, fell to less than half, 9.4 million metric tons, by 2009.

The majority of crude gypsum was mined by three companies--USG Corp.; National Gypsum Co.; and Georgia-Pacific Corp.

Industrial diamonds were crystallized carbon of a quality and color unsuitable for decorative gem stone use, ranging from yellow-brown to black in color. These diamonds were used in applications in almost every major manufacturing industry because of their hardness. The United States was a leading producer of synthetic industrial diamonds, producing about 260 million carats in 2009, compared to 140 million carats in 1998. U.S. production of industrial diamonds was 252 million carats in 2004 and 260 carats in 2007. Dynamic Materials Corporation in Pennsylvania and GE Superabrasives in Worthington, Ohio, were the only two U.S. companies that produced synthetic industrial diamonds in 2009.

The United States was also the leading consumer of industrial diamonds, and in 2008 consumption increased to a record high of 670 million carats, followed by a decline to 449 million carats due to lack of demand cause by the global economic crisis. Industrial diamonds were used by such U.S. industries as construction, computer chip production, mining services, transportation systems, and machinery production. The United States continued to be the leading consumer of industrial diamonds, importing 492 million carats in 2008; imports, however, declined to 229 million carats in 2009, again, due to lack of demand. Industrial diamonds were used by such U.S. industries as construction, computer chip production, mining services, transportation systems, and machinery production.

In 2009, domestic processed perlite production was 380,000 metric tons with a value of $18.6 million. After reporting a peak of 711,000 metric tons in 1999, perlite production decreased steadily in the United States. Imports of perlite increased from 144,000 metric tons in 1999 to 245,000 in 2006, which helped to offset declining domestic production. In 2009, imports were down due to lack of demand to 135,000 metric tons. Seven companies operated nine mines in seven states in the West producing crude ore, with the majority of domestic production coming from New Mexico. Processed ore was produced at 55 facilities in 28 states. The primary uses of perlite in 2009 included building construction (59 percent), fillers (13 percent), horticultural aggregate (13 percent), filter aids (8 percent), and other (7 percent).

Quartz, which was one of the most common minerals, found many industrial and decorative applications. Large flawless quartz crystals were used to make radio circuits, radar, television, telephone circuits, ultrasonic equipment, and quartz oscillator plates in electronic products. They were also used as prisms, wedges, and lenses in optical spectrographs, microscopes, and other optical instruments and as an abrasive in glass and refractory brick production. Crystalline quartz, including clear quartz, rose quartz, and yellow quartz, was used for decorative carvings and semiprecious stones. Amethyst and agate were quartzes used as gemstones.

Most of the quartz crystal used in the manufacture of electronics were cultured quartz crystals rather than natural quartz crystals. The United States stopped mining lascas, which was used to produce cultured quartz crystals, in late 1997, but four domestic companies continued to produce cultured quartz crystals using lascas that was imported, primarily from Brazil. The continued growth of the U.S. consumer electronics market was expected to keep demand for quartz crystal strong. Nevertheless, as of 2009, there was no reported production of cultured quartz crystals in the United States. Although the capabilities exist, it would take significant investment to bring the existing facilities online. As a result, the United States is 100 percent import dependent. Although no data are specified, the U.S. Geology Survey believes that most cultured quartz crystal imports originate from China, Japan, and Russia.

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