Value of tectonic regions in the United States

Research paper by James P. Dorian, Allen L. Clark

Indexed on: 01 May '86Published on: 01 May '86Published in: Mathematical geology


Occurrence of mineral resources is directly or indirectly controlled by major tectonic processes. Additionally, similar mineral deposit types tend to be concentrated within geologically and tectonically similar areas. As a result, information on the production history of minerals in a well-explored and developed tectonic region—such as within the United States—can be used to estimate resources of geologically similar, underdeveloped tectonic areas elsewhere. For such application, two regions should be compared for geologic similarity using all available geologic information. Estimates of resources based on geologic analogy can be useful in large-scale mineral exploration programs where relatively little geologic information is available, such as in many developing countries. In this study, seven major tectonic regions within the United States are evaluated in terms of estimated mineral value as measured by historical mineral production and economic reserves. The seven regions assessed are: (1) Cordilleran Mountain Belt, (2) Colorado Plateau, (3) Central Stable Region, (4) Canadian Shield, (5) Ozark-Ouachtia Province, (6) Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain, and (7) Appalachian Mountain Belt. Regions are ranked in terms of estimated value of (1) 33 major mineral commodities, (2) nonfuel minerals, (3) hydrocarbons, and (4) individual mineral commodities. In terms of total value of historical mineral production and estimated economic reserve amounts of 33 major mineral commodities, the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain is most valuable, with an estimated value of 1980 US$1,970,000/km2. Information on historical mineral production of U.S. tectonic regions may be useful in estimating resources in tectonically similar, underdeveloped regions elsewhere.