Mining in the United States has been active since colonial times, but became a major industry in the 19th century with a number of new mineral discoveries causing a series of mining "rushes." In 2015, the value of coal, metals, and industrial minerals mined in the United States was US $109.6 billion. 158,000 workers were directly employed by the mining industry.
Top Commodities mined in the US, 2015
|Rank||Commodity||Value, US$ billion|
|4||Industrial Sand and Gravel||$8.3|
|7||Construction Sand and Gravel||$7.2|
|Source: US Geological Survey, Mineral Commodities Summaries, 2016.|
From 1880 to 1910, mine accidents claimed thousands of fatalities. Where annual mining deaths had numbered more than 1,000 a year during the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 500 during the late 1950s, and to 93 during the 1990s. In addition to deaths, many thousands more are injured (an average of 21,351 injuries per year between 1991 and 1999), but overall there has been a downward trend of deaths and injuries.
The Monongah Mining Disaster was the worst mining accident of American history; 362 workers were killed in an underground explosion on December 6, 1907 in Monongah, West Virginia. The U.S. Bureau of Mines was created in 1910 to investigate accidents, advise industry, conduct production and safety research, and teach courses in accident prevention, first aid, and mine rescue. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Acts of 1969 and 1977 set further safety standards for the industry.
In 1959, the Knox Mine Disaster occurred in Port Griffith, Pennsylvania. The swelling Susquehanna river collapsed into a mine under it and resulted in 12 deaths. In Plymouth, Pennsylvania, the Avondale Mine Disaster resulted in the deaths of 108 miners and two rescue workers after a fire in the only shaft eliminated the oxygen in the mine. Federal laws for mining safety ensued this disaster. Pennsylvania suffered another disaster in 2002 at Quecreek, 9 miners were trapped underground and subsequently rescued after 78 hours. During 2006, 72 miners lost their lives at work, 47 by coal mining. The majority of these fatalities occurred in Kentucky and West Virginia, including the Sago Mine Disaster. On April 5, 2010, in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster an underground explosion caused the deaths of 29 miners.
Mines are often controversial in their local areas, with local residents split by those in favor particularly due to the economic impact of new jobs and those concerned by the environmental impact and occupational hazards. In the case of the proposed Crandon mine, the U.S. Supreme Court found that tribes have the right to regulate water and air which destroyed the economic feasibility of the project.
The Coal Wars were a series of armed labor conflicts in the United States, roughly between 1890 and 1930. Although they occurred mainly in the East, particularly in Appalachia, there was a significant amount of violence in Colorado after the turn of the century.Coal mining in the United States
Coal mining in the United States is an industry in transition. Production in 2017 was down 33% from the peak production of 1,162.7 million tons (about 1054.8 million metric tonnes) in 2006. Employment of 50,000 coal miners is down from a peak of 883,000 in 1923. Generation of electricity is the largest user of coal, being used to produce 50% of electric power in 2005 and 30% in 2016. The U.S. is a net exporter of coal. U.S. coal exports, for which Europe is the largest customer, peaked in 2012. In 2015, the U.S. exported 7.0 percent of mined coal.Coal remains an important factor in the 25 states in which it is mined. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2015 Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Pennsylvania produced about 639 millions of short tons (MST) representing 71% of total U.S. coal production in the United States.In 2015, four publicly-traded US coal companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, including Patriot Coal Corporation, Walter Energy, and the fourth-largest Alpha Natural Resources. By January 2016, more than 25% of coal production was in bankruptcy in the United States including the top two producers Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. When Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy protection, the price of coal had dropped 50% since 2011 and it was $4.5 billion in debt. On October 5, 2016, Arch Coal emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In October 2018, Westmoreland Coal Company filed for bankruptcy protection.Copper Country
The Copper Country is an area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the United States, including all of Keweenaw County, Michigan and most of Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties as well as part of Marquette County. The area is so named as copper mining was prevalent there from 1845 until the late 1960s, with one mine (the White Pine mine) continuing through 1995. In its heyday, the area was the world's greatest producer of copper.The Copper Country is highly unusual among copper-mining districts in that the copper was predominantly in the form of copper metal (native copper) rather than the copper oxides or copper sulfides that form the copper ore at almost every other copper-mining district. Native Americans mined copper from small pits as early as 3000 B.C.
The Michigan State Geologist Douglass Houghton (later to become mayor of Detroit) reported on the copper deposits in 1841. The first successful copper mine, the Cliff mine, began operations in 1845, and spurred by venture capital from Boston and other East Coast investors, many other mines quickly followed. Mining of the most productive deposit, the Calumet conglomerate, began in 1865. Mining took place along a belt that stretched about 100 miles southwest to northeast.While mining continues on a small scale, tourism and logging are now the area's major industries. Popular tourist destinations include the cities of Copper Harbor and Houghton, and the Porcupine Mountains with Lake of the Clouds. Snowmobiling is very popular in the winter, and snowmobile trails are found in most areas.
Large numbers of Finns, Swedes, Danes, Sami and Norwegians emigrated to the Upper Peninsula, especially the Keweenaw Peninsula, to work in the mines. And they stayed on and prospered even after the copper mines closed.In addition to the aforementioned Nordic peoples, ethnic groups that inhabited the area included: Chinese; Cornish; Croatians; French Canadians; Germans; Irish; Italians; Native Americans; Poles; and Slovenes.The Copper Country is largely rural, and much of it has been designated as state parks or similar designations. These include McLain State Park, Porcupine Mountains State Park, and the Copper Country State Forest. The Keweenaw National Historical Park includes several important sites relating to the area's copper-mining history.
Institutions of higher education include Finlandia University in Hancock, founded in 1896 as Suomi College, and Michigan Technological University in Houghton, originally established in 1885 as the Michigan School of Mines. Finlandia University is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, reflecting the spiritual heritage of the region's many Finnish immigrants. Michigan Tech was founded in response to the needs of the copper mines.
The Copper Country averages more snowfall than any part of the USA east of the Mississippi River, and more snowfall than any non-mountainous region of the continental United States.Dayton State Park
Dayton State Park is a 152-acre (62 ha) public recreation area in the town of Dayton, Nevada, USA. The state park preserves the site of the Rock Point Stamp Mill, which was built in 1861 to process silver ore mined from the Comstock Lode.General Mining Act of 1872
The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold, platinum, and silver, on federal public lands. This law, approved on May 10, 1872, codified the informal system of acquiring and protecting mining claims on public land, formed by prospectors in California and Nevada from the late 1840s through the 1860s, such as during the California Gold Rush.
All citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right under the 1872 mining law to locate a lode (hard rock) or placer (gravel) mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry. These claims may be located once a discovery of a locatable mineral is made. Locatable minerals include but are not limited to platinum, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, uranium and tungsten.Gold Country
The Gold Country (also known as Mother Lode Country) is a historic region in the northern portion of the U.S. State of California, that is primarily on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. It is famed for the mineral deposits and gold mines that attracted waves of immigrants, known as the 49ers, during the 1849 California Gold Rush.Gold mining in the United States
Gold mining in the United States has taken place continually since the discovery of gold at the Reed farm in North Carolina in 1799. The first documented occurrence of gold was in Virginia in 1782. Some minor gold production took place in North Carolina as early as 1793, but created no excitement. The discovery on the Reed farm in 1799 which was identified as gold in 1802 and subsequently mined marked the first commercial production.The large scale production of gold started with the California Gold Rush in 1848.
The closure of gold mines during World War II by the War Production Board Limitation Order No. 208 in autumn 1942 was a major impact on the production until the end of the war.US gold production greatly increased during the 1980s, due to high gold prices and the use of heap leaching to recover gold from disseminated low-grade deposits in Nevada and other states.
In 2018 the United States produced 210 tonnes of gold (down from 237 tonnes in 2017) from 12 states, worth about US$8.5 billion, and 6.4% of world production, making it the fourth-largest gold-producing nation, behind China, Australia and Russia. Most gold produced today in the US comes from large open-pit heap leach mines in the state of Nevada. The US is a net exporter of gold.Guffey Coal Act
The Guffey-Snyder Act was a law, officially known as the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935, passed in the United States in 1935 under Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. It created the Bituminous Coal Commission to set the price of coal and end other unfair practices of competition. The law also created the Bituminous Coal Labor Board to regulate maximum work hours and minimum wage but was later ruled to be unconstitutional because by giving power to the federal government to control prices, it infringed upon the economic liberty of free enterprise.
It was replaced in 1937 with the Guffey-Vinson Coal Act, which the Supreme Court found constitutional. The act resurrected the Bituminous Coal Commission and reinstated the provisions regulation price fixing and unfair practices but removed the labor provisions of the previous act. In 1939, the Bituminous Coal Commission was abolished, and its duties were transferred to the US Department of the Interior.History of coal mining in the United States
The history of coal mining in the United States goes back to the 1300s, when the Hopi Indians used coal. The first use by European people in the United States was in the 1740s, in Virginia. Coal was the dominant power source in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and remains a significant source of energy.
Coal became the largest source of energy in the 1880s, when it overtook wood, and remained the largest source until the early 1950s, when coal was exceeded by petroleum. Coal provided more than half of the nation's energy from the 1880s to the 1940s, and from 1906 to 1920 provided more than three-quarters of US energy.Hosta Butte
Hosta Butte is an ancestral site in Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico. Along with Gobernador Knob and Huérfano Mountain, it forms part of the Dinétah, considered to be the birthplace of early Navajo culture. The mountain, with an elevation of 8,622 feet (2,628 m), is in close proximity to Crownpoint, New Mexico. Due to its prominence in the cosmography of Native tribes in the area, the mountain contains a number of small shrines. In 1877, photographer William Henry Jackson named the butte in honor of Francisco Hosta, who guided him to the Ancestral Puebloan ruins in Chaco Canyon.Uranium mining is exploited in the area, over some 3,020 acres, and forms part of the Grants Uranium Belt.Jerome State Historic Park
Jerome State Historic Park is a state park of Arizona, US, featuring the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 by a family of influential mining entrepreneurs in Jerome, Arizona, a mining region in the northeast of the Black Hills, east Yavapai County. A museum is located in the old Douglas Mansion.
Jerome State Historic Park reopened on October 14, 2010, after being closed since February 27, 2009, because of budget cuts and the need to repair the historic mansion. Renovation and stabilization were funded by a state heritage grant and donations from the Douglas family. The park is open on a seven-day schedule thanks to additional funding raised by Yavapai County, the city of Jerome, and the Jerome Historical Society.Madrid, New Mexico
Madrid (/ˈmædrɪd/, Spanish: [maˈðɾið]) is a census-designated place (CDP) in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, United States. It is part of the Santa Fe, New Mexico Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 149 at the 2000 census and 204 in 2010. Today, Madrid has become an artists' community with galleries lining New Mexico State Road 14 (the Turquoise Trail). It retains remnants of its history with the Mineshaft Tavern and the Coal Mine Museum.Melmont, Washington
Melmont is a ghost town in Pierce County, Washington, USA. The town was founded in 1900 when the Northwest Improvement Company, a subsidiary of Northern Pacific Railway, started the Melmont coal mine. The town consisted of a schoolhouse, a train depot, a saloon, a hotel (which housed the post office, a butcher shop, and store), and rows of cottages that were used as housing for the miners. Each row accommodated a different nationality, the miners being seemingly self-segregated. The coal was used exclusively for use by Northern Pacific, and when they switched from steam locomotives to diesel and electric models, the economic base of the town was destroyed.National Mining Association
The National Mining Association (NMA) is a United States trade organization that lists itself as the voice of the mining industry in Washington, D.C. NMA was formed in 1995, and has more than 300 corporate members.Pacific Coast Borax Company
The Pacific Coast Borax Company (PCB) was a United States mining company founded in 1890 by the American borax magnate Francis "Borax" Smith, the "Borax King".Sequoyah Fuels Corporation
Sequoyah Fuels Corporation owned and operated a uranium processing plant near Gore, Oklahoma. The company was created in 1983 as a subsidiary of Kerr-McGee. In 1988 it was sold to General Atomics.Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge
The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge is a historic gold dredge located in Sumpter, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Gold was discovered in Sumpter in 1862. Three gold dredges were put into service in the Sumpter Valley district between 1912 and 1934.Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) is the primary federal law that regulates the environmental effects of coal mining in the United States.
SMCRA created two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. SMCRA also created the Office of Surface Mining, an agency within the Department of the Interior, to promulgate regulations, to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts, and to ensure consistency among state regulatory programs.
Mining in North America
Mining in the Americas
United States articles