USA: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Topics Covered

Welcome to United States of America
Overview of Resources
Industrial Minerals and Gemstones
Fossil Fuels

Welcome to United States of America

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The United States of America, located on the North American continent, is the world's most powerful nation with an advanced market-oriented economy. It is the third largest and most populated country in the world with a total area of 9,826,675 km2 and a population of 313,847,465 as of July 2011. The country is bordered by the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean on the east and west, respectively, and has a coastline of 19,924 km. Various climatic conditions are experienced across the country from artic in Alaska to tropical in Hawaii.

The national flag of USA. Image Credit: CIA Factbook

Starting in 2008 to the end of 2009, the country had to deal with the toughest economic recession since the Great Depression. During this period, oil prices fell 40% causing the US trade deficit to shrink due to reduced domestic demand. The stable political scenario and advanced technology has helped stabilize the economic crisis and by 2011 the trade deficit went up to $803 billion with the constantly increasing oil prices. The country has the largest GDP in the world with $15.04 trillion as per 2011 estimates.

USA is a land with vast natural resources including coal, copper, lead, uranium, molybdenum, nickel, phosphates, silver, rare earth elements, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, zinc, potash, tungsten, petroleum, and natural gas. It has the world’s largest coal reserves with 491 billion t and accounts for about 27% of the total world reserves. The demand for minerals within the US itself is very high, for example, its construction industry consumes nearly 51% of copper mined in the country.

The mining industry in the USA is one of the most technologically advanced industries incorporating some of the best technology available to provide safe and sustainable mining options. It not only strengthens the country’s economy but also provides numerous well-paid job opportunities. Currently, there are 500,000 people working directly within the industry and 55,000 new miners will be required in the coming years.

Portage Glacier and Lake Alaska in Alaska. Image Credit: CIA Factbook

Overview of Resources

Every state in United States of America is actively involved in the mining sector. The total direct and indirect value of US mining is $1.9 trillion.

The US mineral production statistics are as follows:

  • 6% of the world's non-fuel nonferrous minerals in 2010
  • 4% of US GDP is due to processed materials of mineral origin
  • Third-largest producer of gold in the world
  • Third-largest producer of copper
  • Leading producer of soda ash, beryllium, zinc, and sulfur in the world


Gold is widely mined in the US and used mainly to make jewellery and computer circuitry. USA is the largest producer and consumer of lead. Lead is mined mainly in Missouri but it is also produced in Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Washington.

Copper, widely used in a multitude of consumer products, is extensively mined in the US. Iron ore production is mainly from regions around Minnesota and Michigan.

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Image Credit: CIA Factbook

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

America is a leading producer of beryllium that is widely used in the nuclear industry. The US is a major producer of phosphate rock and soda ash. Cobalt resources can be found in Minnesota, Missouri, Alaska, Oregon, California, Montana and Idaho. Antimony is a native element that is used as a hardening alloy for lead.

Fossil Fuels

America prides itself for possessing a 240-year reserve of coal based on the current consumption trend. Coal is not only widely available (found in 38 states) in the country but is also affordable. Coal accounts for almost 94% of the nation's fossil energy reserves, 30% of the US total energy production, and 21% of total energy consumption.

The four varieties of coal available in the US are:

  • Anthracite, which has the highest energy content, averaging 25 million Btu per t.
  • Bituminous, which has higher heating value than lignite or sub-bituminous, averaging 24 million Btu per t.
  • Sub-bituminous, which has combustible feature with higher heating value than lignite, averaging 18 million Btu per t.
  • Lignite, which has high moisture and ash content with lower heating value, is mostly used in the Southwest of America for generating electricity. It averages 14 million Btu per t.

The coal mining industry in the US is very active and employs nearly 136,000 people. The total demand for US coal reached 1.05 billion t in 2010. The industry follows the concepts of modern mining and ensures that the coal plants today emit 40% less CO2 than those of the 20th century, according to the World Coal Institute. Five million acres of land has been used for mining coal and government regulations ensure that inactive mines are reclaimed and made usable for other purposes.

The US oil production in 2010 stood at 9.688 million bbl/day making the USA the third-largest producer of oil in the world. America is also the world's leading producer of natural gas with 611 billion m3 in 2010.


The US mining industry, in 2008, paid $45 billion in taxes, royalties and fees to federal and state governments. According to the US Geological Survey, minerals and materials processed from minerals accounted for exports worth $87 billion annually.

The US has adopted modern mining techniques so as to ensure less impact on the surrounding environment and safety of those employed in the mining industry. This has been achieved with sophisticated communications systems, latest training procedures, advanced technology, better safety awareness and regulatory laws.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) plays a huge role in protecting the community and the environment from the ill effects of surface coal mining operations. It works with colleges, universities, and other State and Federal agencies to develop better ways of reclaiming mined lands and protecting the environment. The OSM also undertakes training programs for state and tribal professionals in a wide range of needed skills.

The National Mining Association (NMA) has developed several sustainability principles taking into consideration social economic and environmental perspectives. The NMA membership includes more than 325 corporations.

Thanks to the ever-increasing demand for minerals globally, the US mining industry - with its sophisticated techniques and skilled labor - has very bright prospects in the coming years.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.


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