Crushed stone and sand and gravel are the two main sources of natural aggregates. These materials are commonly used construction materials and frequently can be interchanged with one another. They are widely used throughout the United States, with every State except two producing crushed stone. Together they amount to about half the mining volume in the United States. Approximately 96 percent of sand and gravel and 77 percent of the crushed stone produced in the United States are used in the construction industry.
Natural aggregates are widely distributed throughout the United States in a variety of geologic environments. Sand and gravel deposits commonly are the results of the weathering of bedrock and subsequent transportation and deposition of the material by water or ice (glaciers). As such, they commonly occur as river or stream deposits or in glaciated areas as glaciofluvial and other deposits. Crushed stone aggregates are derived from a wide variety of parent bedrock materials. Limestone and other carbonates account for approximately three quarters of the rocks used for crushed stone, with granite and other igneous rocks making up the bulk of the remainder. Limestone deposits are widespread throughout the Central and Eastern United States and are scattered in the West. Granites are widely distributed in the Eastern and Western United States, with few exposures in the Midwest. Igneous rocks (excluding granites) are largely concentrated in the Western United States and in a few isolated localities in the East.
Even though natural aggregates are widely distributed throughout the United States, they are not universally available for consumptive use. Some areas are devoid of sand and gravel, and potential sources of crushed stone may be covered with sufficient unconsolidated material to make surface mining impractical. In some areas many aggregates do not meet the physical property requirements for certain uses, or they may contain mineral constituents that react adversely when used as concrete aggregate.
In areas where suitable natural aggregate is not available or accessible, it may become necessary to improve the quality of existing aggregate, to import aggregate from outside the area, or to substitute artificial aggregate for natural aggregate. In most cases, all of these alternatives add substantially to the cost of the final product. Even though an area may be blessed with an abundance of aggregate suitable for the intended purpose, existing land uses, zoning, or regulations may preclude commercial exploitation of the aggregate.
This report also discusses the aggregate industry in general terms, including exploration, mining, and processing, as well as aggregate production rates. Proper long-range planning based on an understanding of the aggregate industry can help assure adequate supplies of aggregate.