Clays and clay minerals have been mined since the Stone Age; today they are among the most important minerals used by manufacturing and environmental industries. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) supports studies of the properties of clays, the mechanisms of clay formation, and the behavior of clays during weathering. These studies can tell us how and where these minerals form and provide industry and land-planning agencies with the information necessary to decide how and where clay and clay mineral deposits (fig. 1) can be developed safely with minimal effects on the environment.
The term "clay" is applied both to materials having a particle size of less than 2 micrometers (25,400 micrometers = 1 inch) and to the family of minerals that has similar chemical compositions and common crystal structural characteristics (Velde, 1995) described in the next section. Clay minerals have a wide range of particle sizes from 10's of angstroms to millimeters. (An angstrom () is a unit of measure at the scale of atoms.) Thus, clays may be composed of mixtures of finer grained clay minerals and clay-sized crystals of other minerals such as quartz, carbonate, and metal oxides. Clays and clay minerals are found mainly on or near the surface of the Earth.
|Publication Subtype||USGS Unnumbered Series|
|Title||Environmental characteristics of clays and clay mineral deposits|
|Series title||Information Handout|
|Publisher||U.S. Geological Survey|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|