Kentucky has many natural resources that are vital to the state's growth and economy. The limestone industry produces millions of tons of stone for construction aggregate, agricultural lime, and sulfur sorbent uses in power plants. Sand and gravel are finite resources used as aggregates and currently constitute a multimillion-dollar industry in the state. Clays are mined in various parts of the state for uses in brick, ceramic ware, pottery, and other specialized uses. Fluorspar, galena, sphalerite, barite, iron, and phosphates are all minerals that were once mined in the state, but currently are uneconomic. Kentucky has many resources and reserves of fluorite and zinc, and one day these commodities will be mined again in the state. Other minerals, such as titanium, uranium, and tar sands, may have potential for mining.
Information from KGS can be used to evaluate resources for new markets and to determine new sources of raw materials. With advances in technology and industrial processes and products, or changes in economics, new markets and needs for industrial and metallic minerals are developing, each with its own compositional and physical specifications.
As an example of a changing market, the principal use for limestone and dolostone in the state traditionally has been in construction and agriculture, but federal legislation to control sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants has resulted in new markets for carbonate rocks as sorbents in flue-gas desulfurization and fluidized-bed combustion systems.
In the case of fluorite, global economies intermingle with Kentucky miners. In the past, less expensive fluorite was imported from China, Mexico, and India, and as a result, many fluorite mines in Kentucky closed. But now many of these countries consume most of their own fluorite production and will continue to consume their own raw materials for many years to come as their nations grow, so economics will change and in the future, fluorite mining will return to Kentucky.
Another example is Kentucky's many clay resources, which are normally used in ceramic or sanitary wares, bricks, pottery, and dinnerware, but new technology has determined that certain types of chemically complex clays have specific uses in chemical, thermal, magnetic, and electrical industries. Some clays are used in superconductor ceramics, whereby electricity is conducted with little or no resistance, and others have magnetic properties, all of which are of interest in high-technology applications. These clays could have great benefit in our society.
KGS will be ready to meet the challenge by providing both digital and hard-copy information on the state's mineral resources. Within the next few years, KGS will have an Internet map service to assist in distributing information about Kentucky's mineral resources.