Industrial Minerals

Industrial minerals are defined as a naturally occurring rock or mineral, exclusive of metal ores, mineral fuels, and gemstones. Industrial minerals are diverse materials and are used in virtually every aspect of modern life, providing raw materials for many industries, including building, manufacturing, and agriculture. The world of industrial minerals covers more than sixty substances, from abrasives to zeolites, commonly invisible to the general public in their application.

Map showing location of major mines in Colorado.

Map showing location of major mines in Colorado.

Important industrial minerals and construction material currently produced in Colorado include sand, gravel, crushed stone, silica sand, dimension and decorative stone, cement, clay, gypsum, sodium bicarbonate, peat and helium.

  • More than 400 tons of sand, gravel, and crushed stone are utilized in the construction of a typical home.
  • Bricks from Colorado clay are used in construction across the Rocky Mountain region.
  • Most Colorado gypsum is mined near the town of Gypsum and is used to make wallboard (drywall).
  • Cement from Colorado’s three cement plants also provides building material for the region and helps reduce the nation’s dependence upon imports.

Sand, Gravel, and Crushed Stone

Table Mountain Quarry, producing rock from the Dakota Sandstone to be used as rip-rap and road base.

Sand, gravel and crushed stone form a group of industrial minerals known as “aggregates”. These materials are necessary for concrete, road base and coverings, and construction fill. Most producers near metropolitan are relying more on crushed stone than on sand and gravel because sand and gravel are found mostly in river valleys. Stone quarries can be operated with much less visual impact and take up less space than a large sand and gravel operation. Locating aggregate resources close enough to the urban corridor to provide product at a reasonable price is a constant problem in much of Colorado. Sand and gravel represented 77 percent of Colorado’s total aggregate production.

Flagstone from the Lyons Formation is produced in Boulder and Larimer Counties.

Dimension stones are quarried slabs or blocks of attractive rock that are used for decorative construction, facing panels, flagstone, sculptures and monuments, and many other projects requiring large, competent masses of stone. Many dimension stone producers may also crush and market some of the stone for landscaping purposes.

The principal Colorado dimension stones include marble, sandstone and granite. The flagstone from the Lyons Formation in Boulder and Larimer Counties is the most widely used material among Colorado dimension stone, along with some granite and marble. Both crushed rock and whole boulders are used as a decorative landscaping material. Granite, gneiss, sandstone, volcanic rock, obsidian, marble, and quartz pegmatite are some of the rock types currently being mined in the state for decorative use. Natural boulders that have a covering of lichen on them are commonly known as “moss rock” in the landscaping industry.