West Virginia Mineral Industries - Limestone and Dolomite

Dividing Line

Each year West Virginia mines and quarries produce 10 to 13 million tons of limestone and dolomite valued at between $40,000,000 and $53,000,000. These materials are used to make a wide variety of products, including: construction aggregate, agricultural lime, coal mine safety dust, fluxing agents, desulfurization sorbents for coal-fired power plants, lime, and acid neutralizers.

Nearly all of the production is from the eastern panhandle and northeastern limestone quarry and southeastern parts of the State. In these areas, the major limestone and dolomite units are exposed at the surface and are accessed by about 30 quarries and four underground mines. Most production is from the Greenbrier Group, Helderberg Group, St. Paul Group, and the Tomstown Dolomite.

In the central and western parts of the State, major limestone and dolomite units are either absent or lie hundreds of feet beneath the surface. In these areas, a small amount of production is from thin, Pennsylvanian-age units; however, most of the material consumed in these areas is trucked in from eastern West Virginia or barged in from out-of-state sources.

The outlook for future West Virginia production is excellent. Reserves are enormous and production should only be limited by demand and other economic factors. In addition, new markets and the development of previously untapped resources may significantly increase statewide production levels.

Future production in central and western West Virginia may come from shaft mining the Greenbrier Limestone where anticlines bring it close to the surface near major markets or navigable waterways. Shaft mine in this region could supply much of the material that is currently being imported from other states.

Recent clean-air legislation could create and sustain a significant increase in the demand for limestone and dolomite. More coal-fired power plants are choosing to install scrubbers on existing plants or utilize fluidized bed boilers in new facilities, both of which used limestone and/or dolomite as a sulfur-capturing sorbent material. It has been estimated that if all of the coal-fired plants in West Virginia converted to these technologies, the State's demand for limestone and dolomite could increase by up to 50%.

(adapted from a compilation by Hobart M. King and Claudette M. Simard, updated September 1996)

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