Conventional open pit mining techniques are used to produce almost all the talc mined in the U.S. Typically, the ore is drilled, blasted, and partially crushed at the mine. Selective mining and (or) hand or machine sorting may be used to produce high-grade ore feed for the mill. At the mill, the ore is further crushed and finely ground. In some instances, flotation processes are used to remove mineral impurities. Most companies produce dozens of talc products that differ primarily in particle size, particle size distribution, brightness, mineral composition, and bulk density.
Talc's Many Uses
U.S. talc is used in the production of ceramics (the main domestic use), paint, paper (for improving several paper qualities and in recycling processes), plastics (as a functional filler, providing rigidity to the plastic), roofing, rubber, cosmetics, flooring, caulking, and agricultural applications. As examples, talc is used in the ceramic substrate of catalytic convertors, and is found in wire and cable insulation, auto body putty, asphalt shingles, caulks, sealants, joint compounds, foam packaging, animal feed, pharmaceuticals, chewing gum, candy, gaskets, hoses, belts, flooring (providing softness and flexibility), insecticide carriers, and of course, baby and body powders. Thus, talc is a part of everyday life.
The U.S. Talc Industry
The U.S. is second only to People's Republic of China in annual talc production, with U.S. mines producing around 1 million metric tons of crude talc ore per year during the 1990's (Virta, 1998). Production of talc is an approximately $100 million per year industry in the U.S.
Talc, soapstone, and steatite were excavated from 13 mines in six States in 1999. Only one of these talc mines was an underground operation; the other 12 were surface mines. Montana led the U.S. in 1999 talc production, followed by Texas, Vermont, New York, Oregon, and California.
Montana has been the leading talc- producing State in the U.S. for more than 20 years, supplying more than one-third of the U.S. production in recent years. All production has come from large deposits of high- purity talc in the southwestern part of the State. The largest producer in Montana, and the U.S., is the Yellowstone mine, an extensive open pit operation near Ennis, Mont. During the late 1990's, the Yellowstone mine produced about 300,000 short tons (270,000 metric tons) of crude talc ore per year (Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology annual reports).
Domestic development and exploration for talc are expected to stay relatively steady in the foreseeable future because:
demand for domestic talc is expected to continue based on recent market trends (Virta, 1998);
large mines are active and an infrastructure for talc processing is in place;
no significant acid mine drainage is associated with talc mining. However, the presence of long, thin amphibole minerals within some talc deposits has received much public scrutiny as a health issue.
1995 aerial view of the Yellowstone mine near Ennis, Mont., the largest talc producer in the U.S. Photograph courtesy of Luzenac America, Inc.
Berg, R.B., 1979, Talc and chlorite deposits in Montana: Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 45, 66 p., 3 plates. Chidester, A.H., Engel, A.E.J., and Wright, L.A., 1964, Talc resources of the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1167, 61 p., 7 plates. Piniazkiewicz, R.J., McCarthy, E.F., and Genco, N.A., 1994, Talc, in Carr, D.D., ed., Industrial minerals and rocks, 6th Edition: Littleton, Colo., Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc., p. 1049–1069. Virta, R.L., 1998, Talc and pyrophyllite, in Minerals yearbook, metals and minerals 1996, vol. I: U.S. Geological Survey, p. 891–897.
For more on the U.S. talc industry contact:
Robert L. Virta
S. Geological Survey Reston, VA
For more on U.S. talc geology contact:
Bradley S. Van Gosen
S. Geological Survey Denver, CO
Richard B. Berg Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Butte, MT (406) 496-4172 firstname.lastname@example.org
Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.