We are assessing the extent of industrial mineral resources hosted by heavy-mineral sands in the coastal plain of the southeastern United States. “Heavy-mineral sands" (HMS) is a term commonly used in industry and geologic literature to describe layered sediments deposited in coastal environments that contain dense (“heavy") minerals of economic value. The heavy minerals extracted from these coastal deposits contain titanium, zirconium, and rare earth elements, needed to manufacture, for example, modern electronics for consumer and defense applications. The extensive heavy-mineral sand deposits in the southeastern U.S. coastal plain represent an enormous, under-utilized domestic source of these mineral resources. The United States is heavily reliant on imports of these mineral commodities, which are critical to the U.S. economy and security. The characteristics and global importance of heavy-minerals sand deposits are described in USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5070L, ‘Deposit model for heavy-mineral sands in coastal environments’.
U.S. Geological Survey, 2016, Mineral commodity summaries 2016: U.S. Geological Survey, 202 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/70140094.
Van Gosen, B.S., Fey, D.L., Shah, A.K., Verplanck, P.L., and Hoefen, T.M., 2014, Deposit model for heavy-mineral sands in coastal environments: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5070–L, 51 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20105070L.
Van Gosen, B.S., Verplanck, P.L., Long, K.R., Gambogi, Joseph, and Seal, R.R., II, 2014, The rare-earth elements—Vital to modern technologies and lifestyles: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2014–3078, 4 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20143078.
Woodruff, Laurel, and Bedinger, George, 2013, Titanium—Light, strong, and white: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013–3059, 2 p., https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2013/3059/.
In this project we will:
USGS mineral economists will place these coastal plain deposits in context with those that are already established in the global supply chain (a market analysis–materials flow study of heavy-mineral sand resources).
To be comprehensive, the determination of the extent of heavy-mineral sand deposits will use multiple, existing earth-science data sets, such as geochemical, geological, geophysical, hydrological, and geographical data. Initial analyses of these different data sets were conducted by Ellefsen and others (USGS Open-File Report 2015-1111), establishing the foundation for this investigation.
Ault, T., Van Gosen, B., Krahn, S., and Croff, A., 2016, Natural Thorium Resources and Recovery: Options and Impacts: Nuclear Technology, 194(2), p. 136-151, doi:10.13182/NT15-83.
Ellefsen, K.J., Van Gosen, B.S., Fey, D.L., Budahn, J.R., Smith, S.M., and Shah, A.K., 2015, First steps of integrated spatial modeling of titanium, zirconium, and rare earth element resources within the Coastal Plain sediments of the Southeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1111, 40 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151111.
Hou, B., Keeling, J., and Van Gosen, B.S., 2017, Geological and Exploration Models of Beach Placer Deposits, Integrated from Case-Studies of Southern Australia: Ore Geology Reviews, 80, p. 437-459, doi:10.1016/j.oregeorev.2016.07.016.
Sengupta, Debashish, and Van Gosen, B.S., 2016, Placer-type rare earth element deposits (Chapter 4), in Verplanck, P.L., and Hitzman, M.W., eds., Rare earth and critical elements in ore deposits: Reviews in Economic Geology, v. 18, p. 81-100, https://www.segweb.org/store/SearchResults.aspx?Category=REV18-PDF.
Van Gosen, B., Bleiwas, D., Bedinger, G., Ellefsen, K., and Shah, A., 2016, Coastal deposits of heavy mineral sands; Global significance and US resources: Mining Engineering, 68(10), p. 36-43. View article preview.
Van Gosen, B.S., and Tulsidas, H., 2016, 10 – Thorium as a nuclear fuel, in Hore-Lacy, I., ed., Uranium for Nuclear Power: Resources, Mining and Transformation to Fuel, Elsevier Ltd., p. 253-296, doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-100307-7.00010-7.
Ellefsen, K.J., 2017, Titanium concentrations in stream sediments from the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the southeastern U.S. (1975-1999): U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7J38R16.
Van Gosen, B.S., and Sengupta, Debashish, 2016, Placer-type rare earth element deposits (Invited Presentation): Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 48, No. 7, doi:10.1130/abs/2016AM-279551.
Bradley Van Gosen
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center