Wyoming’s abundance of mined resources includes coal, bentonite, trona, uranium, rare earths, aggregate materials (sand, gravel, and crushed stone), and the list goes on. All minerals and materials retrieved from the earth play some role in all our lives, and what better way to remind ourselves to appreciate them than a focused overview on the materials and uses.
The first blog of this series will spotlight aggregates mining and our daily utilization of this resource that is easily overlooked. In many people’s eyes, aggregate commodities aren’t highly sensationalized mining materials, nevertheless, the National Minerals Information Center of the USGS tracked nearly 20 million metric tons of aggregates produced in WY during 2018 equating to nearly $150,000,000 in value. According to a report by the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS), construction aggregate was “the most valuable non-energy mineral commodity in the United States.”
Aggregate materials are used in many ways to include:
Your commute to work – road base
Landscaping – decorative sand, gravel, or rock
When pouring a home’s foundation – concrete
Creating a driveway – asphalt or concrete
In oil/gas drilling operations as a proppant – frack sand
When enjoying a day at the local park – sand boxes, manmade beaches
Erosion control – riprap
In water purification systems – sand
Providing traction to icy roads – gravel
The material properties dictate the way they’re able to be used. Many labs, including Disa, test for select characteristics to confirm the samples meet predetermined parameters from governing bodies like the Department of Transportation. The wide range of tested qualities may include particle size range, shape, hardness, specific gravity, particle texture, mineral purity, and even chemical reactivity.
Testing aggregate is necessary to ensure it will be a suitable fit for the desired application. Such tests include standards that help determine the effectiveness of the material for particular uses. Aggregate materials that don’t meet specifications have potential to cause safety and durability issues for projects such as roadways slumping or concrete structures not being strong enough to withstand day-to-day stresses.
Though these rocks may serve different purposes compared to other resources, it is obvious that aggregate is crucial to sustaining our standard of living. Take the time to appreciate one of the underdogs of the mining world.