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U.S. gold, silver production down in 2012—USGS

U.S. gold mine production declined slightly in 2012, although Nevada retained its status as the top U.S. metals producer with combined mineral production valued at $11.2 billion.

The “2013 Mineral Commodities Summaries” released by the U.S. Geological Survey Tuesday revealed that, in 2012, the estimated total value of U.S. mineral production increased for the third consecutive year.

The estimated value of mineral raw materials produced at U.S. mines was $76.5 billion, a slight increase from $74.8 billion in 2011, according to the USGS.

Estimated total value of U.S. metal mine production in 2012 was $34.9 billion, down 3% from 2011. Principal contributors to the total value of metal mine production last year were gold (36%), copper (27%), iron ore (15%), molybdenum (10%), and zinc (4%). Average prices for most domestically mined metals decreased in 2012.

U.S. mine production of 15 mineral commodities was worth more than $1 billion each in 2012, including (in decreasing order of value) gold, crushed stone, copper, cement, construction sand and gravel, iron ore, molybdenum concentrates, phosphate rock, lime, industrial sand and gravel, soda ash, all types of clays, salt, zinc and silver.

Last year 11 states each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel mineral commodities including (in descending order of value) Nevada, Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, California, Alaska, Utah, Texas, Missouri, Michigan and Wyoming. The mineral production of these states accounted for 64% of the total U.S. output value, said the report.

Number-one ranked mining state Nevada’s principal mineral production, in descending order of value, included gold, copper, silver, lime, sand and construction gravel for a total combined value of $11.2 billion in 2012. Second-ranked Arizona contributed total mineral production worth $8.05 billion including (in descending order of value) copper, molybdenum, sand and gravel, cement and silver, while third place Minnesota reported $4.5 billion of combined mineral production including (in descending order of value) iron ore, sand and gravel for both construction and industrial, crushed stone and dimension stone.

U.S. mine production of copper in 2012 increased by 4% to 1.15 million tons and was valued at $9 billion. Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Montana—in descending order of production—accounted for more than 99% of domestic mine copper production.

Thirty operations yielded more than 99% of the gold produced in the U.S. in 2012 with total gold mine production valued at $12.6 billion. Commercial-grade refined gold came from about two dozen producers.

U.S. mines produced 230 metric tons of gold in 2012, down from 234 metric tons in 2011.

Last year mines in Michigan and Minnesota shipped 97% of the usable iron ore produced in the United States with an estimated combined value of $6 billion. Eight mines operated by three companies accounted for virtually all of the production.

Six lead mines in Missouri, plus lead-producing mines in Alaska and Idaho, yielded a total of $843 million in U.S. lead output in 2012. U.S. mines also produced a total of $1.7 billion in moly last year at 12 operations.

In 2012, the United States mined 1,050 tons of silver with an estimated value of $1.01 billion, down from 1,120 tons in 2011. Alaska was the country’s leading silver-producing state, followed by Nevada. Silver was produced as a byproduct from 35 domestic base and precious-metals mines. World silver mine production increased to a new record of 24,000 tons, according to the USGS.

The value of zinc mined in the United States was $1.53 billion in 2012, produced in three states at 13 mines operated by four companies.

Mineral Commodity Summaries and the Minerals Yearbook are sold by the U.S. Government Printing Office.

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