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Mineral Resources of the Appalachian Region

A compilation of information on the mineral resources,
mineral industry, and geology of the Appalachian Region.
Geological Survey Professional Paper 580

U. S. Geological Survey and the
U. S. Bureau of Mines
United States Government Printing Office
Washington, 1968.

Please note:  Not all of the material from this book will be presented here on this web site.  Mainly the information on stone resources will be presented in this document.  Click here if you would like to view the Table of Contents of the book.

Title Page

Table of Contents for This Document

(The table of contents that follows is modified to cover the only the subjects presented in this document.)

Table of Contents (images of the original Table of Contents for this publication)
Appalachia:  Problems and Opportunities
  Opportunities for Mineral-Based Industry in Appalachia
  Construction Materials
The Mineral Industry
  History of the Mineral Economy
  Nonmetals and Construction Materials
  Current Mineral Economy
  Relationship of Mining to Other Economic Sectors
  Economic Impact of the Mineral Industry
  The Future:  The Appalachian Economy in 1975
  Climate and Hydrology
  Population, Industry and Agriculture
  Parks and Recreation
  Physiographic Provinces
  Blue Ridge
  Valley and Ridge
  Appalachian Plateaus
  Interior Low Plateaus
  Central Lowland and Coastal Plain
  Development of Landforms
  Economic Geology
  Engineering Geology
  Engineering Aspects of Appalachian Rocks and Soils
  Piedmont and Blue Ridge Provinces
  Valley and Ridge Province
  Appalachian Plateaus Province
  Special Features Influencing Engineering Geology
  Natural Features
Mineral Commodities
  Construction Materials
  Crushed Stone
  The Industry in Appalachia
  Miscellaneous Stone
  Resource Potential
  Dimension Stone
  Marble and Limestone
  Tennessee Marble Belts
  Virginia Marble Belts
  Murphy Marble Belt
  Marble in Brevard Fault Zone
  Gaffney Marble Belt
  Sylacauga Marble Belt
  Other Marble Belts
  Sandstone Belts and Areas
  Granite Belts and Areas
  Valley and Ridge Slate Belt
  West Virginia Slate Belt
  Pennsylvania Slate Belt
  Other Slate-Bearing Areas
  Miscellaneous Dimension Stone
  Limestone and Dolomite
  Uses of Crushed Limestone and Dolomite
  Occurrences in Appalachia
  Piedmont and Blue Ridge Provinces
  Valley and Ridge Province
  Cambrian Limestone and Dolomites
  Knox Group (Upper Cambrian and Lower Ordovician)
  Ordovician limestones and dolomites
  Silurian and Devonian Limestones
  Appalachian Plateaus, Interior Low Plateaus, and Central Lowland
  Ordovician Limestones and Dolomites
  Silurian and Devonian Limestones and Dolomites
  Mississippian Limestone
  Pennsylvanian and Permian Limestones
  Resource Potential
  Deposits in Appalachia
References Cited



The Appalachian Region, also called Appalachia, extends from southern New York to northern Alabama and Georgia; it includes all of West Virginia and parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, an area of 185,000 square miles having a population of 17.3 million.  The region is rich in minerals and other natural resources.  In the mid-20th-century, Appalachia has a rather low per capita income, a large rural population, high unemployment, and a limited industrial complex.  In recognition of the need to solve the social and economic problems, the Federal Government has initiated a program of study and development of the region under Public Law 89-4, of which this study of mineral resources is a part.

The mineral resources of the Appalachian Region have played a vital role in the industrial development and economic growth of the eastern United States.  The huge deposits of anthracite and bituminous coal were the principal sources of the Nation's energy during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.  The abundance and wide distribution of coking coals, iron ores, and fluxing stone gave rise to the important iron and steel centers in and near the region.  The oil industry was born in the Appalachian Region, and for many years Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia were the most important oil-producing States in the Nation.  Appalachian clay, sand, feldspar, salines, and a few other mineral commodities have long been utilized by eastern industry.  Some of the most beautiful and extensively mined marble in the United States has come from the Appalachian Region.  Presently, nearly one-fourth of domestic zinc is produced in the region.

This report evaluates the mineral resources of Appalachia in terms of their geologic setting and distribution, availability, and use, and discusses the past, present, and future roles of the mineral industry.  It was prepared by 67 specialists of the U.S. Geological Survey and the U. S. Bureau of Mines.  The report consists of three main parts:  The introductory part describes the geology and physiography of Appalachia, discusses causes and effects of the current lagging economy in much of the region, and evaluates the mineral industry.  This part is followed by a discussion of geology that provides the background for understanding the distribution and relative abundance of mineral commodities; the influence of geology on engineering works is also discussed.  The main part of the report consists of 50 sections which deal, in summary form, with history, production, geology, and resources of each mineral commodity that has been produced or that potentially may be reproduced in Appalachia.

The mineral commodities are:  (1) Fuels and related organic materials-asphalt, coal, oil shale, peat, petroleum, and natural gas; (2) construction materials-cement, clay, crushed stone, dimension stone, gypsum, anhydrite, clay and shale for lightweight aggregate, vermiculite, lime, limestone, dolomite, roofing granules, sand, and gravel; (3) nonmetals-abrasives, arsenic, asbestos, barite, feldspar, phosphate rock, fluorspar, gem stones, graphite, kyanite, sillimanite, lithium and berryllium minerals, mica, olivine, brine, rock salt, silica, sulfur, strontium minerals, talc, soapstone, pyrophyllite, sericite schist, and zircon; and (4) metals-bauxite and aluminous clay (for alumina and aluminum), cadmium, chromium, cobalt, nickel, copper, gold, iron ore, manganese, nioblum, tantalum, silver, thorium, rare-earth metals, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, zinc, and lead.

In 1964, total production of mineral commodities in Appalachia was about $2.5 billion, of which bituminous coal, valued at $1.64 billion, was by far the most important.  Twelve other mineral commodities accounted for an additional $816 million:  (1) petroleum and natural gas ($187 million),  (2) crushed stone ($145 million),  (3) anthracite coal ($144 million),  (4) cement ($142 million),  (5) sand and gravel ($50 million),  (6) zinc ($37 million),  (7) lime ($29 million),  (8) clay ($28 million),  (9) salines ($19 million),  (10) dimension stone ($18 million),  (11) copper ($9 million),  (12) iron ore ($8 million).  Eighteen other mineral commodities accounted for the remaining $32 million.

The fuel resources could support a much larger production.  Bituminous and anthracite coal resources have been extensively studied and are well known; they are probably larger than those of any area of comparable size in the world.  Production of petroleum and natural gas also could be increased, but extensive geologic study is required in order to evaluate the total resources.  Oil shale deposits, considered to be low grade by present standards, are very large and represent a resource for the future.  Peat resources of northern Appalachia are probably large enough to sustain a manyfold increase in production for several decades.

Resources of many construction materials are virtually inexhaustible.  Among the most important are limestone and dolomite for general-purpose crushed stone and cement, clay and shale for brick, tile, and lightweight aggregate, sand and gravel, and attractive marble, sandstone, granite, and limestone for dimension stone.  Because these materials are used chiefly close to the source, expanded production will logically follow industrial and economic growth of the Appalachian and surrounding market areas.

Resources of nonmetals and industrial minerals such as high-calcium limestone, high-purity silica, high-grade clay, feldspar, mica, salt, and olivine are large, and these materials can be utilized to a much greater extent than at present.  Others such as asbestos, barite, kyanite, sillimanite, and talc (including soapstone and sericite schist), occurring in moderate to large amounts, require additional study.

 The only Appalachian metal having a large production in terms of national consumption is zinc, and only this metal can be expected to have a greatly increased production within the next decade or two, and continue to be important nationally.  The rather small production of lead will increase with zinc output.  The potential for finding new low-grade, but economic, copper-bearing sulfide deposits is good, and their exploitation will results in substantial increase in copper and sulfur output.

Even though the Appalachian Region has had a long history of mineral prospecting, many of its mineral resources are still imperfectly known, and systematic exploration is needed to assess their future potential.  The following are among the most urgent:  A search should be made for deep petroleum and natural gas, which are virtually unknown because production to date has been from shallow fields.  The distribution and quality of high-grade silica, limestone, clay, and salines should be determined.  The ultramafic rocks of southeastern Appalachia should be studied to evaluate their resources of olivine, asbestos, and vermiculite.  Zinc deposits and massive copper-bearing sulfide deposits should be investigated to determine ore controls that will aid in the search for hidden ore bodies.


The Geological Survey and the Bureau of Mines initiated in 1965 a special examination and analysis of the distribution, magnitude, and economic significance of the region's mineral resources.  The results of this study, which was undertaken with the advice and help of appropriate State geological and mining agencies, are presented in this report.

The Appalachian Region is defined in Public Law 89-4, March 9, 1965, extends through a 12-State region from southern New York to northern Alabama and Georgia; it includes all of West Virginia and parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama  (pl. 1).  The region also is known as Appalachia and is so referred to throughout this report.  It is mainly a dissected mountainous and highland area; it covers some 185,000 square miles and has 17.3 million inhabitants (1960 census).  Low income and unemployment are serious problems in many parts of the region, and their effects are not only disadvantageous to the people of Appalachia but costly to the Nation.  Regional economic development of Appalachia has therefore been adopted as a national program of high priority.  The present study contributes a foundation for resource data to this program that should serve to stimulate and guide development of resource-based industries.

This report summarizes information on the geology, mineral resources, and mineral industry of the Appalachian Region, giving special attention to appraising the mineral resources and assessing the role of the minerals industry in the future.  It is mainly a compilation and synthesis of data available in many published and unpublished reports (see "References cited" at end of report), supplemented by the firsthand knowledge of those who collaborated in its preparation.  As far as possible the report is written in nontechnical language, so that it may be of use to officials and businessmen interested in development of mineral-resource-based industries as well as to engineers and geologists who are directly concerned with mineral exploration and mining.  Because it is a summary of a vast amount of information on this classic geological region, the report also should be of interest to the student and teacher.

Preparation of a report on a region as large as diverse geologically as Appalachia required the cooperation of many persons and agencies other than the authors themselves.  Thor H. Kiilsgaard of the Geological Survey and Robert B. McCormick of the Bureau of Mines were in charge of the overall project.  George E. Ericksen was the principal coordinator and editor of the report; Robert A. Laurence assisted in its assembly and contributed from his rich store of firsthand knowledge of the Appalachian Region.  Editorial and coordination assistance also was given by Alfred J. Bodelos, Dennis P. Cox, Alice E. French, and Robert A. Weeks, all of the Geological Survey.  The "Mineral Commodities" sections and a few of the other sections were reviewed by the following State Geologists and staffs of State agencies, who also contributed valuable information and advice:  Philip E. LaMoreaux, State Geologist, and Otis M. Clarke, Jr., Thomas J. Joiner, Thornton L. Neathery, Thomas A. Simpson, W. Everett Smith, and Michael W. Szabo, Geological Survey of Alabama; A. S. Furcron, Director, and J. H. Auvil and James W. Smith, Department of Mines, Mining and Geology of Georgia; Wallace W. Hagan, director and State Geologist, and Preston McGrain and Edward N. Wilson, Kentucky Geological Survey; Kenneth N. Weaver, Director, and Emergy T. Cleaves, and Nonathan Edwards, Jr., Maryland Geological Survey; John G. Broughton, State Geologist, and James F. Davis and Karen J. Lukas, Geological Survey, State Museum and Science Service of New York; Stephen G. Conrad, State Geologist, Division of Mineral Resources of North Carolina; Ralph J. Bernhagen, Chief, and Horace R. Collins, Karl V. Hoover, and David K. Webb, Jr., Ohio Division of Geological Survey; Arthur A. Socolow, State Geologist, and Bernard J. O'Neill and Davis M. Lapham, Bureau of Topographic Geologic Survey of Pennsylvania; Henry S. Johnson, Jr., State Geologist, Division of Geology of South Carolina; W. D. Hardeman, State Geologist, and Stuart W. Maher, Division of Geology of Tennessee; James L. Calver, State Geologist, and Donald C. LeVan, Division of Mineral Resources of Virginia; and Paul H. Price, State Geologist, and Thomas Arkle, Jr., Oscar L. Haught, and Robert B. Erwin, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey.  Berlin C. Monemaker, Chief Geologist, and J. M. Kellberg and R. W. Johnson of the Tennessee Valley Authority reviewed and contributed vital information to several of the chapters.

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