The West's Largest Calcium Carbonate Producer:
|The Lucerne Valley Limestone Province contains enormous reserves of
cement-grade and high-brightness, high-grade calcite limestone. The
Province lies in the California Transverse Ranges of Southern California
within the Los Angeles market region, the second largest economic region
in the United States. The Province extends for about 40 kilometers along
the north slope of the San Bernardino Mountains overlooking the Mojave
Desert. About 5% (12-thousand hectares) of the San Bernardino Mountains is
underlain by Paleozoic carbonate rocks. This carbonate stratigraphic
section averages about 1,500 meters thick with white high-grade calcite
limestone units ranging from 15 to 30 meters thick.
Mineral Materials Company, a subsidiary of A.S. Vinnell, pioneered white pigment filler-extender limestone mining in 1947 with Kennedy Materials Company of Los Angeles. Mineral Materials limestone operations were purchased by Kaiser Steel for steel flux at their Fontana, California steel mill in about 1950. Kaiser Steel operated metallurgical limestone quarries in Arctic and Marble Canyons and Kaiser's Permanente Cement quarried limestone from Cushenbury Canyon from the 1950's through the 1980's. Mitsubishi purchased Kaiser Cement from Hanson Trust in the mid-I980's.
Currently three operators, Omya (formerly Pluess Stauffer), Specialty Minerals (formerly Pfizer), and Mitsubishi Cement are exploiting the western portion of the Province. Along the north-facing slope of the San Bernardino Mountains much of the original high-grade ore has been lost through erosion into a series of northward dipping alluvial fans. Most of the eastern portion of the Province for several kilometers has not eroded away along a highland area known as "Lone Valley" (or the Smart Ranch Limestone Deposit). Right Star Minerals recently received approval to proceed with underground mining of the principal high-grade, white calcite limestone ore body similar to that being mined by Omya, Specialty Minerals, and Mitsubishi Cement in the western portion of the Province.
On the order of 2-million tons of high brightness calcite limestone and 6-million tons of cement-grade limestone per year are mined by these operations. The value-added wealth to the regional economy by this Province is estimated to be greater than a billion dollars a year. The principal markets for white pigment fillers and extenders are caulking compounds, dry-wall textures, fiberglass, fire-resistant roofing, flooring, food additives, paint, paper, plastics, pottery, putty, PVC pipe, stucco, tooth paste, white ink, and wire coatings. Chemical uses include acid neutralization, pharmaceuticals, glass, and air and water purification. Omya and Specialty Minerals are currently the principal producers of ground calcium carbonate (GCC). Mitsubishi produces by-product GCC at their cement operation in Cushenbury Canyon. The Lucerne Valley Limestone Province products are shipped more than 3000 km east to Chicago and 3000 km southwest to Hawaii. During the past 30 years the calcium carbonate market's growth rate for high-grade limestone has ranged from 5 to 15% per year.
Don Fife is an engineering and economic geologist in California. He
earned a B.S. in Paleontology and Stratigraphy and an M.S. in Geology at
San Diego State University (SDSU). Don's Masters Thesis, Geology of
the Bahia Santa Rosalia 30-minute Quadrangle, is on the Pacific Slope
of Baja California. His thesis was published as part of GSA Memoir 140,
Reconnaissance Geology of Baja California (Gastil et al, 1975).
|"The establishment of an American Soviet
government will involve the confiscation of large landed estates in town
and country, and also, the whole body of forests, mineral deposits, lakes,
rivers, and so on."
William Z. Foster