The United States presently consumes about 16 percent of global production of industrial garnet for use in abrasive airblasting, abrasive coatings, filtration media, waterjet cutting, and grinding. As of 2005, domestic garnet production has decreased from a high of 74,000 t in 1998, and imports have increased to the extent that as much as 60 percent of the garnet used in the United States in 2003 was imported, mainly from India, China, and Australia; Canada joined the list of suppliers in 2005. The principal type of garnet used is almandite (almandine), because of its specific gravity and hardness; andradite is also extensively used, although it is not as hard or dense as almandite.
Most industrial-grade garnet is obtained from gneiss, amphibolite, schist, skarn, and igneous rocks and from alluvium derived from weathering and erosion of these rocks. Garnet mines and occurrences are located in 21 States, but the only presently active (2006) mines are in northern Idaho (garnet placers; one mine), southeastern Montana (garnet placers; one mine), and eastern New York (unweathered bedrock; two mines). In Idaho, garnet is mined from Tertiary and (or) Quaternary sedimentary deposits adjacent to garnetiferous metapelites that are correlated with the Wallace Formation of the Proterozoic Belt Supergroup. In New York, garnet is mined from crystalline rocks of the Adirondack Mountains that are part of the Proterozoic Grenville province, and from the southern Taconic Range that is part of the northern Appalachian Mountains. In Montana, sources of garnet in placers include amphibolite, mica schist, and gneiss of Archean age and younger granite. Two mines that were active in the recent past in southwestern Montana produced garnet from gold dredge tailings and saprolite.
In this report, we review the history of garnet mining and production and describe some garnet occurrences in most of the Eastern States along the Appalachian Mountains and in some of the Western States where industrial-grade garnet or its possible occurrence has been reported. Other natural and manmade materials compete with garnet in nearly all of the applications for which garnet can be used; garnet, however, has the advantages that it is reusable, nontoxic, and nonreactive. In addition, garnet produces much less dust than other abrasive materials, and spills are relatively benign and easy to clean up.