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Oklahoma Non-fuel Mineral Production

The complex geology of Oklahoma is the reason for its abundant mineral resources including petroleum (oil and natural gas), coal, metals (examples include copper, lead, zinc), and industrial minerals (examples are limestone, gypsum, iodine, sand and gravel). Typically Oklahoma ranks within the top 30 states in the production of nonfuel minerals with a value of about $500 million per year according to the United States Geological Survey.

Oklahoma Non-fuel Mineral Resources

Nonfuel minerals include metals (such as lead, zinc, and copper) and industrial minerals (including limestone, gypsum, iodine, salt, clays, sand, and gravel). Oklahoma metals production is an important part of the state’s heritage, but today no mining for metals occurs in Oklahoma. Underground mines in the Miami-Picher field in northeastern Oklahoma produced nearly 1.3 million tons of lead and 5.2 million tons of zinc between 1891 and 1970, the year the mines closed. Oklahoma was the leader in zinc production in the United States each year beginning in 1918 and ending in 1945. Mining operations southwest of the town of Altus, in Jackson County, extracted about 1.9 million tons of copper ore from shale deposits between 1964 and 1975. The principal metallogenic provinces of Oklahoma are in the northeastern corner of the State, and in the Ouachita, Arbuckle, and Wichita Mountains. (A metallogenic province is a geographic area characterized by a particular assemblage of mineral deposits, or by a distinctive style of mineralization.)

Many industrial minerals found throughout Oklahoma serve local, regional, and national markets. Sources of aggregates (mostly as crushed-stone, but including sand and gravel deposits) and building-stone include limestone, dolomite, granite, and sandstone deposits. Additional important construction resources are cement (made from limestone, shale or clay, silica sand, and iron), and sand and gravel deposits which occur along modern and ancient river courses. Industrial sand — high-purity silica sand present in the Arbuckle Mountains, and alluvial sands rich in feldspar in the Arkansas River at Muskogee — is used for glass making (both container glass and flat glass), proppants, foundry sand, ceramics, and abrasives. Enormous reserves of gypsum in western Oklahoma are mined for wallboard, plaster, a retarder in portland cement, and as a soil amendment. Underlying much of western Oklahoma are thick layers of rock salt at depths ranging from near-surface (about 30 feet) to 3,000 feet. In some areas natural springs of salt-rich water emit brines at several salt plains in the region. Oil-field brines from deep underground (7,000–10,000 feet deep) contain dissolved iodine. Three companies in the northwest and north central Oklahoma extract the iodine from the brines. Oklahoma is the only state that produces iodine, making the US the third largest producer of iodine in the world. Other important industrial minerals in Oklahoma include common clay and shale (for brick- and tile-making), tripoli (a high-silica rock used for pigments and abrasives), helium, and volcanic ash (used for abrasives and absorbents).

Additional Information

Mineral Deposits and Resources of Oklahoma (PDF) - OGS Educational Publication EP9  - Earth Sciences and Mineral Resources of Oklahoma, provides a detailed map of Mineral Deposits and Resources of Oklahoma, as well as maps of topography, geology, geomorophology, earthquakes, oil and gas production, water resources, hazards, soil, vegetation, and climate.

Minerals Education Coalition - Minerals Education Coalition provides K-12 teachers with free geological, mineralogical, earth science, lesson plans and classroom materials about the Earth's ecology and natural resources.

Download the USGS Mineral Resources Poster - Mineral resources; out of the ground...into our daily lives, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 01-360.