The establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 1983 by Presidential Proclamation opened for natural resource exploration a vast offshore frontier area contiguous to the United States and its territories. The EEZ extends from the seaward limit of state waters (3 nautical mi from shore) to 200 nautical mi offshore, and it includes the continental shelves. Within the context of the EEZ natural resource assessment effort, the purpose of this study is to delineate, on a regional basis, the potential for heavy-mineral placers on the U.S. Continental Shelf in the western and northern Gulf of Mexico from the United States-Mexico border to the Alabama-Florida state line. This map is intended to serve as a general guide for placer exploration. It shows favorable sea-floor areas for placer occurrence in water depths ranging from 0 to 100 fathoms (600 ft). The map can be used as a guide for focusing costly exploratory efforts, such as coring operations and geophysical surveys.
The potential economic value of heavy-mineral placer concentrations on the U.S. Continental Shelf is a function of both geologic and economic variables. Geologic variables include the composition and concentration of the heavy-mineral assemblages and their environment of deposition. Economic variables include the current world market price of extracted metals, as well as the cost of mining, processing, and marketing the metals. These economic factors, in turn, are tempered by the nation1s socio-political climate, which determines its need for specific mineral resources at any given time.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Heavy-Mineral Placer Potential Map of the U.S. Continental Shelf, Western and Northern Gulf of Mexico