The United States has huge deposits of all sorts of metallic and non-metallic minerals and fossil fuels.
The exploitation of these riches, insignificant in the eighteenth century and just started in the first half of the century. XIX, after 1860 it grew so rapidly that by the end of the century the United States was already at the head of all the mining countries of the world. The value of mining production was, in 1900, about 900 million dollars, about 2 billion in 1910, it peaked at 6.981 million in 1920 and remained above 5 billion in the whole decade 1920-30.
The distribution of mineral deposits is very varied, but overall there are three main regions: the area of the Western Highlands, where valuable metal ores, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc prevail, and iron is found in less quantity. coal and oil (California and Wyoming); the Allegani area, very rich in iron, coal and oil, and not lacking in other useful minerals; the central plain which has large iron deposits around Lake Superior, coal beds in the Mississippi Valley, and rich oil fields along the eastern foot of the Rockies, from Kansas to Texas. In the best conditions of exploitation is the area of the Appalachians.
The United States supplies about 50% of the world’s copper production.
It exists in an almost pure metallic state in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Lake Superior, where it is mined with deep and expensive excavations; but most of the copper is now produced in the West, especially in Arizona which provides two fifths of the total, while Michigan does not reach one fifth; followed by Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. The copper of Lake Superior is almost usable in the conditions in which it is extracted, but most of the remaining ore, which has a very low metal percentage (1.6), is treated in the blast furnaces in the immediate vicinity of the mines. The product thus obtained (copper matte) is refined, by means of electrolysis, in large plants built on the Atlantic coast, between Baltimore and New York, and in those built in Montana and on Pouget Sound. The United States provides about a third of the world’s product of lead and zinc: the galena fields in Illinois are exhausted and now the main production is in Missouri (Ozark for lead and Joplin for zinc) and then in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah. Leadville in Colorado is the primary center for lead.
The ‘ Aluminum is extracted from bauxite to which the Member States possess vast deposits in Arkansas and other children in Georgia and Alabama. Bauxite treatment is done with electricity, especially in Niagara Falls and Maryville in Tennessee.
Even for gold and silver, the United States has a very important place. Also counting the production of Alaska, in 1930 the United States gave 64,800 kg. of gold and in 1933 kg. 71,653, equal to a tenth of world production, coming in third place after the South African Union and Canada. And of silver they produced tons. 1575 in 1930 and tonn. 719 in 1933. The supplier states are, mainly, California, South Dakota, Colorado and Utah for gold, and these same plus Idaho, Arizona, Montana and Nevada for silver..
Turning to iron ores, we recall that the United States supplies about two-fifths of the mineral used in the world. The largest, and practically inexhaustible, deposits are those of Minnesota and Wisconsin, around Lake Superior, from which the ore is shipped by water to the industrial regions of the east, especially the high furnaces of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Another area rich in iron ore is Alabama, where Birmingham’s steel center exploits deposits from the southern tip of the Appalachians. These two areas provide nearly 95% of America’s total iron production; all other deposits, including those from the West, are of little importance.
Among the non-metallic minerals we mention: sulfur, obtained in Texas and Louisiana in such huge quantities that the United States produces about 80% of world production; The rooms, located in the highland lakes (Great Salt Lake) and huge deposits of pure salt in Michigan, Ohio, on the coast of Louisiana, and in a broad band from Kansas to New Mexico; the phosphates, which exist in Colorado and Idaho, in Florida and Tennessee, which provide about two-fifths of world production.
Fossil fuels are of far greater importance. The coal deposits in the United States are valued at 2,000 billion tons, and are in the majority, especially the large deposits of the Appalachians, easy to exploit: the deep valley incisions that have exposed the heads of the layers that have remained horizontal, allow excavation the coal with the machines and to load it directly, at the mouth of the quarry, on the railway wagons.
The major coal deposits are arranged in large meridian belts, of which the main one is the belt that extends from Pennsylvania to Alabama on the two sides of the Appalachian chain passing through Maryland and the two Virginie, on the one hand, for Ohio, the Kentucky and Tennessee on the other.
This large belt, together with the much less extensive Pennsylvania anthracite deposits, measures a total of 183,000 square kilometers and two-thirds of American coal is extracted from it: in particular the northern section produces coking coal.
The second section of the inland basins includes: a) the little exploited fields of Michigan (28,000 sq km); b) the deposits of the east inland basin (150,000 sq. km.) of Indiana, Illinois and the eastern part of Kentucky, which constitute the second coal-producing region of the Union and supply the best coals of this section; c) the basins of the central west and south (24,000 sq. km.) extending in a continuous strip as far as Texas, producing fuel for the railways and for local needs.
Finally, the basins of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coast (115,000 sq km) include small scattered deposits, with a low overall production, but of considerable local importance. Also worthy of mention is the anthracite basin of the Susquehanna Valley in eastern Pennsylvania, the product of which is widely used for domestic heating.
Even greater is the wealth of oil, of which the United States supplied 63% of world production in 1930. The main districts are: a) Appalachian (Pennsylvania) where the first wells were opened around 1860 and which still preserves the production of the lightest and most valuable oil; b) Lima – Indiana of NE. and Michigan ; c) Illinois – Indiana of SO.; d) the Middle Continent from Kansas to North Texas which is currently the strongest producer; e) of the Gulf, that is, of Louisiana and southern Texas; f) the Rocky Mountains, particularly Wyoming; g) of California, which holds the second place among the American districts.
The crude oil is brought to refineries and then to the centers of consumption and export by means of a grand network of pipelines (pipelines), which in 1930 measured 149,782 kilometers in length. The immense production is mostly consumed in the country; the refinery industry is so developed that crude oil imported from Mexico and Central and South America is also processed.