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Tennessee's Mineral Industry

Tennessee's mineral industry contributed nearly $1.268 billion in product value in 2016, the most recent year for which data are available. In 2015 total direct and indirect economic impact was more than $4.9 billion, affecting nearly 28,000 jobs. Tennessee has a history of mining more different kinds of mineral resources than any other state east of the Mississippi River except North Carolina, dating back to the late 18th century.

Tennessee's non fuel mineral production totaled $1.21 billion in 2016, and included crushed stone, zinc, portland cement, construction and industrial sand and gravel, and clay. Its value accounted for more than 95 percent of Tenneesee's total mineral production value in 2016.

Tennessee is the leading producer of ball clay in the nation out of five producing states. Ball clay is used primarily in the manufacture of dinnerware, floor and wall tile, pottery, and sanitary ware. 

Energy minerals found in Tennessee include fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and oil shale, and radioactive minerals, but not all are in deposits large enough or high-grade enough to recover under present economic conditions. Only coal, oil, and natural gas are currently being recovered, and their value accounted for more than 4.5 percent ($57.8 million) of the Tennessee's total mineral production value in 2016.

Tennessee's coal production is small but generally high quality. All present production is bituminous coal from the Cumberland Plateau and Cumberland Mountains regions. There is a sizable reserve of lignite in West Tennessee, more than a billion tons, but as yet there has been no mining. Because of its potential impact on ground water resources, the Tennessee Geological Survey partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to assess problems that might arise should surface mining of those reserves ultimately be developed. Coal production (632,000 short tons) accounted for 3 percent ($38 million) of Tennessee's total mineral production value in 2016.

Tennessee's oil and gas production is small by national standards. Oil production totaled about 257,000 barrels in 2016, down from more than one million barrels in 1982. Gas production was close to zero before 1977, when pipelines first reached the fields, but was slightly less than 3.6 billion cubic feet in 2016, down from its all time high of more than 5 billion cubic feet in 1984. Its value ($9.1 million) was about 86 percent of that of the oil production ($10.6 million), and together they accounted for slightly less than 1.6 percent of Tennessee's total mineral production value in 2016.

Last updated August, 2018


Ron Zurawski

(615) 532-1502