Limestone—A Crucial and Versatile Industrial Commodity

imestone, as used by the Lindustry, is any composed mostly of (CaCO3). Although is common in many parts of the United States, it is critically absent from some. Limestone is used to produce Portland , as in and asphalt, and in an enormous array of other products, making it a truly versa- tile commodity. is essential to the building , but despite our Nation’s abundance of limestone, there have been cement shortages in recent years. These have been caused in part by a need to find new areas suitable for quarrying oper- ations. To help manage our Nation’s Limestone is an essential mineral commodity of national importance. Some of the many prod- resources of such essential mineral ucts made using limestone are shown in this photograph—breakfast cereal, , calcium commodities, the U.S. Geological supplement pills, a tabletop, antacid tablets, high-quality , roofing gran- Survey (USGS) provides crucial data ules, and Portland cement. (USGS photograph; use of trade, firm, or product names is for and scientific information to industry, descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.) policymakers, and the public. other sea-dwelling creatures use these ’s surface. This process is called two chemicals to make protective shells “.” There are also rare “igneous” carbonate rocks that have What is Limestone? by combining them to form or “,” which is the same chemical crystallized from molten magma in the “Limestone” means any rock formed composition as calcite but has a different same way that lavas or have. mostly of (CaCO3), form. These are called “,” and this but to geologists, limestone is only one Some have been changed rock type is mined at a few places in the of several types of “carbonate rocks.” by the introduction of in world as industrial limestone. These rocks are composed of more ground water. Magnesium in ground Sedimentary limestone deposits than 50% carbonate minerals, generally water may convert some or all of the cal- can be extensive, covering hundreds the minerals calcite (pure CaCO3) or cite in the limestone to . Also, of square miles, and can be relatively dolomite (calcium-, some rocks formed near the shores of uniform in thickness and quality. There- CaMg[CO3]2) or both. ancient seas in arid climates were mostly fore, limestone can be large Most carbonate rocks were depos- dolomite at the time they were deposited. and long lived, limestone layers ited from seawater. These sedimentary Limestone comes in many different that can be hundreds of feet thick over carbonate rocks are common on every varieties. is a very fine grained, areas of several square miles. Many continent and have formed through most porous marine limestone composed quarries produce multiple products, and of geologic history; they are still form- almost entirely of microscopic . crushed rocks that are not pure enough ing today in the tropics as reefs and is a freshwater sedimentary for certain uses may still be suitable as at the bottoms of shallow seas. Marine limestone that has very thin, crenu- road aggregate. Marble quarries can limestone forms because seawater has lated layers and is commonly formed also be very large. However, these rocks high concentrations of two key dissolved at springs. Marble is a , that were once regularly bedded have chemicals—calcium (Ca++) and bicar- usually a marine limestone, that has been been metamorphosed into irregularly – bonate (HCO3 ) ions. In the near-surface squeezed and deformed like by shaped bodies that are more difficult layer of most oceans, , clams, and great heat and pressure deep beneath the and costly to mine.

U.S. Department of the Interior Fact Sheet 2008–3089 U.S. Geological Survey Revised August 2012 DISTANCE TO MARKETS AND SUITABLE SITES AFFECT THE PRICE AND AVAILABILITY OF LIMESTONE

In large parts of the United States there are extensive deposits of marine - stone. Most of the cost of limestone to the customer is determined by how far N away it comes from and how it is shipped. This aerial photograph shows the Antire Quarry in a rural setting near Eureka, . Interstate Highway 44 and the Burlington Northern and Sante Fe Rail- road are at the top right of the photo. The quarry is 25 miles southwest of central St. Louis, providing easy access to low-cost transportation and proximity to major markets. Other suitable quarry sites have been swallowed up by the city’s growth in recent years, resulting in “resource 0 1,000 feet sterilization.” (Photograph from Google- 0 400 meters Earth; used by permission of Bussen Quarries, Inc.)

In large parts of the United States limestone is simply crushed and sieved applications. Most dolomite that is mined there are extensive deposits of marine for use in landscaping and roofing. is simply crushed and sieved for use as limestone of various ages from a few Powdered limestone is used to remove aggregate in concrete or asphalt. thousand to more than 350 million years impurities from molten metals like . old. Some deposits have chemical grades It can also remove toxic compounds from The Portland Cement Shortage as high as 95% CaCO . However, some the exhaust of coal-burning power plants. 3 Portland cement is one of the most areas are completely without any suitable Limestone is used as a filler in a variety important products made from limestone. limestone deposits. Most of the cost of of products, including paper, plastic, and It is essential in many construction appli- paint. The purest limestone is even used limestone to the customer is determined cations. The United States is not self-suf- in foods and medicines such as breakfast by how far away it comes from and how ficient in cement and must import it from cereals and calcium pills. it is shipped. Shipping by barge on water other countries to make up for shortfalls. Limestone is also the for is cheaper than by train which, in turn, is Imports of clinker (the product from the making lime (CaO) that is used to treat cheaper than shipping by truck. first step in making cement) and finished , purify water, and smelt copper. cement accounted for about 23% of total Uses of Limestone Lime has many additional uses in the U.S. cement sales in 2006. In the years chemical industries. Limestone has many industrial uses just prior to 2007, Portland cement was Dolomites are commonly less suitable in seriously short supply in the Nation. and can be used as mined or processed than other industrial limestones for most into a wide variety of products. It is the Competition from other countries, an raw material for a large variety of con- inadequate ocean transport system, and struction, agricultural, environmental, underestimated space requirements and industrial materials. were among the causes. Limestone is used in construction When Portland cement was in very almost everywhere. In 2007, crushed short supply, its price increased signifi- limestone was 68% of all crushed rock cantly. Consumers sought substitutes. They used pressure-treated , insu- produced in the United States. Also, lated steel, and polystyrene in panels, limestone is the key ingredient in making and even redesigned building footers to Portland cement. Despite our Nation’s reduce the amount of cement needed. abundance of limestone, there have been Cement shortages also caused construc- cement shortages in recent years. tion delays that resulted in increased Some of the purest of natural lime- costs for roads, bridges, and buildings. stones are . For centuries, marble Many buildings in the Nation’s capital are has been the decorative stone of choice in Sources of Limestone in the Future government buildings and public statues. covered with limestone. The Apex Building/ Travertine is also used as a dimension Federal Trade Commission has an upper exte- Establishing new limestone quarries stone in tiles and tabletops. Some white rior of Indiana limestone. (USGS photograph) and cement plants in the United States is a slow process, and supply shortfalls U.S. operations have vibration, and truck and other traffic associ- require time to correct. It takes about 2 been declining in number, about 20% loss ated with quarry operations. years to build a new cement plant, and per decade since 1971. However, from Some limestones are also , the permitting process can take much lon- 2001 through 2006, total annual U.S. lime- that is, they are rock units that can yield ger—8 to 10 years. Perhaps an even more stone production increased according to water to wells. Where limestone is an challenging problem is that people may U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral , there can be concerns that con- not welcome new quarries and plants Commodity Summaries, so the average taminants from the quarrying operations to their area. In spite of these obstacles, size of a quarry is increasing. In other could escape into the ground water. many U.S. cement companies are in the parts of the world, new production is com- In many areas of the United States process of expanding and modernizing ing mainly from a few very large quar- where limestone is found, it gradually their operations. ries. Despite increased U.S. production, dissolves in rainwater at the surface or in When an area of suitable and mine- the Nation was importing more and more the near-surface ground water. In humid able rock is swallowed up by urban of its limestone products until the recent climates, great volumes of limestone dis- growth or when mining becomes prohib- downturn in construction. These imports solve and are carried away in the water. ited by legislation or zoning, the result is come primarily from Canada, , and This creates , and may called “resource sterilization.” Limestone China. With fewer quarries the average develop where ceilings collapse. In is a material of national importance, haul distance will increase, and limestone cavernous limestone aquifers, contami- and resource sterilization can result in a prices will likely increase once more. nants in ground water move much faster longer haul at a higher cost from quarry than in other types of rocks, so quarries in to customer. Some Issues in Limestone Mining such areas are special concerns. Limestone is most often mined from a The Need to Understand an Limestone Production Patterns quarry. However, underground limestone Most of the limestone that is mined mines are found at places in the central and Essential Resource is crushed for aggregate. The majority of eastern United States, especially in and Limestone is among our Nation’s most U.S. crushed stone production has come near cities. Underground mining of lime- essential resources. Our understanding of from limestone for at least the last 40 stone has some advantages over surface that resource as an is years. This is true even though carbonate quarrying and will probably increase in the poor given its importance to our economy. rocks are only 25 to 35% of the rocks at future. Typical public concerns about lime- Because limestone has been regarded as a the surface. stone mining include dust, noise, blasting “common” rock, earlier geologic research


Great volumes of limestone can be dissolved and carried away by surface and ground water. This creates caves, such as Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico (photo at right). In humid climates, cave formation is especially common, and sinkholes may develop where cave ceilings collapse. A about 240 feet across at ground level opened in 1981 in Winter Park, , when the ceiling of an underlying lime- stone cave collapsed (photo below). The cave and sinkhole are in the Cypresshead Formation, which is an important aquifer in central Florida. In cavernous limestone aquifers, contaminants in ground water move much faster than in other types of rocks, so quarries in such areas are special concerns. (USGS photograph)

Stalactites hang from the ceiling, and rise from the floor of Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, within 260 million-year-old limestone. (National Park Service photograph) was limited in scope. In the past, and use, such as limestones in many and limestone products, valued at about most USGS research on limestone has parts of Alaska, are currently too dis- $210 million. Most of these imports were focused on mapping deposits, as well tant from markets to be profitable. It is crushed stone and carbonate fines. as understanding their roles as aquifers important, though, to catalog such rocks Meeting the challenge of supplying and petroleum reservoirs. However, as possible future resources. America’s needs for essential mineral different data are needed to character- commodities such as industrial limestone ize limestone suitable for construction U.S. Industrial Consumption of requires accurate and unbiased scientific and other industries. Carbonate rocks Limestone data. The ongoing work of scientists with need to meet chemical purity require- the USGS Mineral Resources Program ments that vary by intended use. Some Both geologic and economic limits provides the information crucial to the cre- uses require that the limestone also has will certainly affect future supplies of ation of sound policies that will help ensure certain favorable proper- limestone. The United States presently future supplies of mineral resources. ties. Standards and requirements for consumes between 5 and 10% of the limestone use are rising, and a greater global production of industrial limestone. James D. Bliss, Timothy S. Hayes, understanding of limestone characteris- In 2007, domestic production of industrial and Greta J. Orris tics, variability, and engineering proper- limestone was about 1.1 billion metric ties is needed. tons, valued at more than $9 billion. In the Some limestones in the United Sates same year, the Nation imported about 20 Edited by James W. Hendley II that are otherwise suitable for mining million metric tons of industrial limestone Layout by David R. Jones

Additional Information Boynton, R.S., 1980, Chemistry and technol- For more information on industrial lime- Additional information is available from the ogy of lime and limestone: New York, stone and its many uses, please contact the following USGS Mineral resource specialist: Wiley, 578 p. following USGS Commodity Specialists: STONE—DIMENSION AND CRUSHED Harben, P.W., 1999, The industrial minerals STONE—CRUSHED William H. Langer handybook: Surrey, U.K., Industrial Miner- Jason Christopher Willett U.S. Geological Survey als Information Ltd., 296 p. Phone: (703)-648-6473 Box 25046, Mail Stop 964 Harben, P.W., and Kuzvart, M., 1996, Industrial Fax: (703)-648-7757 Denver Federal Center minerals—a global geology: London, U.K., Email: [email protected] Denver, CO 80225 Industrial Minerals Information Plc., 476 p. Phone (303) 236-1249 STONE—CRUSHED, AND LIMESTONE Kogel, J.E., Trivedi, N.C., Barker, J.M., and Email: [email protected] Hendrik van Oss and Krukowski, S.T., eds., 2006, Industrial minerals and rocks, 7th ed.: Littleton, Colo- Valentin Trepordi (emeritus) Other sources of information: rado, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Phone: (703)-648-7712 Exploration, 1548 p. Fax: (703)-648-7757 USGS Mineral Resources Program http://minerals.usgs.gov/ van Oss, H.G., 2008, Cement: U.S. Geological Email: [email protected] and Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries, 2 p. [email protected] Lime [http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/com- http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/ modity/cement/; accessed March 13, 2008] STONE—DIMENSION commodity/lime/ Thomas Dolley Phone: (703)-648-7710 Cement Fax: (703)-648-7757 http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/ Email: [email protected] commodity/cement/ Crushed stone LIME http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/ M. Michael Miller commodity/stone_crushed/ Phone: (703)-648-7716 Fax: (703)-648-7757 This Fact Sheet and any updates to it are Email: [email protected] available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/ fs/2008/3089/.

Limestone quarry in Florida (USGS photograph)