Chesterfield County, Virginia
The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) regulates four mine permits in Chesterfield County, with active mineral mining operations currently underway at two of these. The total land acreage under permit is about 612 acres. Three of the permitted mines produce crushed stone for construction aggregate from the Petersburg Granite (Mpg), while the fourth operation produces sand and clay, also for construction aggregate. Annual production reports indicate a total of about 1.3 million short tons of crushed stone were produced in 2016, with an estimated value of about $21.4 million. The value of minerals increased by about 2 percent compared to the estimated value in 2015. There were a total of 31 workers directly employed by the mining companies in 2016 earning approximately $1.6 million in wages. Independent contractors employed by the mines are not included in the employment and wage information.
Chesterfield County occupies portions of three geologic provinces with a wide variety of mineral and energy resources utilized in the past and present, and potentially available for development in the future. Unconsolidated sediments in Virginia’s Coastal Plain occur in the eastern portion of the county, eastward from the Fall Line. Sand, gravel, and clay are important resources for construction aggregate in this area. The central part of Chesterfield County is underlain by the Petersburg Granite, a large granitic pluton of Mississippian age (age dated to about 330 million years old). Two productive stone quarries in the county, the Dale Quarry and Midlothian Quarry, produce crushed granite for construction aggregate markets, and this same rock unit has been the source of dimension stone in the past. The western portion of the county occupies part of the Richmond basin, a Triassic-age half-graben filled with up to 4,000 feet of sandstone, conglomerate, siltstone, and shale with several historically economic coal seams. The basin has also attracted interest in the past by companies exploring for natural gas resources.
Coal deposits occur in Triassic-age sedimentary rocks in the Richmond basin in the vicinity of Midlothian and Clover Hill, near Winterpock. Coal mining in the basin for local use and commercial development began perhaps as early 1701, continuing for many years until production ceased after about 1904 (Wilkes, 1988). There are four main coal seams and approximately 40 historic coal mines in the Midlothian mining district. The coal seams ranged in thickness from 1 foot to over 35 feet locally. The mine operations included everything from small surface pits to complex underground workings up to 800 feet in depth. The Black Heath mine is reported to have a 1,350-foot drift dug at the bottom of an 800-foot shaft. Explosions and fatalities occurred in 1839 and 1844, and the mine was abandoned before the start of the Civil War. Another important mine was the nearby Grove shaft, dug to a depth of 622 feet. Fatal explosions in 1876 and 1882 and the death of the mine owner led to the shutdown of the mine. In 1902 a syndicate of Richmond investors reopened the Grove shaft, but in 1920 the mine was abandoned for good. Attempts were made in 1936 to pursue further coal mining by the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company of Delaware, but these plans never materialized as active mining (The Commonwealth, 1936).
The Clover Hill mine district contained three coal seams ranging from 3 to 20 feet thick. Numerous coal mines were developed in the Clover Hill district, ranging from simple surface mines to deep shafts. The Clover Hill Coal Mining and Manufacturing Company was organized in 1840 and dug two 240-foot shafts. The Clover Hill Railroad was completed to the Appomattox River in 1845, and to Richmond in 1847 for the express purpose of transporting the coal. By 1866, the company had built its own landing on the James River, but sedimentation in the river, an explosion in 1867, and a cholera epidemic dampened the enthusiasm for mining. The mine was eventually closed in the late 1800s.
DMME has an active Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program to help locate and characterize the hazards associated with abandoned coal mines in the Richmond Regional Planning District (Planning District 15). Maps have been compiled and are available on our web site.
In the early 1980s, Merrill Natural Resources drilled exploratory gas wells to assess the potential for coalbed methane resources. Additional deep test wells were completed by Cornell Oil Company and Shore Exploration in the early to mid-1980s, with several of these wells bottoming out in crystalline basement rocks beneath the basin sediments. Although coal, gas, and minor oil shows were recorded (Wilkes, 1988, Appendix II), the results of these test wells were generally considered negative for gas resources potential. In the early 1990s, AMOCO Production Company completed six core holes and concluded that commercial gas resources were potentially available in the basin, but would be difficult to develop due to geologic structural complexities, and the suburbanized nature of the area that limits land availability for production operations.
Other mineral resources that were produced in the past in Chesterfield County include numerous sand and gravel pits for construction aggregate , ocher that was historically mined near Bermuda Hundred and marketed for pigment purposes, and sand in the Richmond area that was utilized for molding sand (Watson, 1907). Clay and shale at selected localities have been tested and found potentially suitable for use in the manufacture of brick, sewer pipe, quarry tile, and structural tile (Johnson and Tyrell, 1973).
In recent years, DGMR has conducted geologic mapping investigations in the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes most of Chesterfield County. Recent geologic maps that have been released as open file reports cover the Bon Air and Chesterfield 7.5-minute quadrangles. A description of the mapping program is given on our website.Following is a list of references and resources for Chesterfield County mineral resources, which includes both references cited above as well as additional sources of information. Most references can be obtained by contacting DGMR at 434-951-6341 or by visiting our website.
Chesterfield County Geologic Map
Chesterfield County Geologic Map unit descriptions
Chesterfield County Historical Mineral Resource Sites
Chesterfield County Mineral Production, 2016
Chesterfield County Mineral Resource Industry Data, 2016
Chesterfield County Active Mines, 2016
Virginia Mineral Production, 1986-present
Virginia Active Mines, 1990-present
Access DGMR's Collections including our Interactive Geologic Map, VGIC (publications, rock samples, geologic maps, coal quality, and orphaned mines) as well as our Webstore where publications can be purchased or downloaded for free.
Johnson, S.S. and Tyrell, M.E., 1967, Analysis of clay and related materials-eastern counties: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Mineral Resources Report 8, p. 30-40.
Lovett, J.A., and Hostettler, K.K., 2016, Coal, in: Bailey, C.M., Sherwood, W.C., Eaton, L.S., and Powars, D.S. [eds.] The Geology of Virginia, Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publication 18, Martinsville, VA, p. 443-461.
The Commonwealth, 1936, Volume 111, number 3, March 1936, p. 26
Wilkes, G.P., 1988, Mining history of the Richmond Coalfield of Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 85, p. 18-35.
Carter, M.W., Bondurant, A.K., and Berquist, C.R., 2010, Geologic Map of the Chesterfield Quadrangle, Virginia: Division of Geology and Mineral Resources Open File Report 10-06.
Carter, M.W., Berquist, C.R., Bondurant, A.K., and Bleick, H.A., 2007, Geologic Map of the Bon Air Quadrangle, Virginia: Division of Geology and Mineral Resources Open File Report 07-03.
Goodwin, Bruce K., 1970, Geology of the Hylas and Midlothian quadrangles, Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Report of Investigations 23, 51 p. and map.
Marr, John D., Jr., 2002, Geologic map of the western portion of the Richmond 30 X 60 minute quadrangle, Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 165, map with descriptions.
Sweet, P.C. and Nolde, J.E., 1999, Coal, oil and gas, and industrial and metallic minerals industries in Virginia, 1998: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 153, 25 p.
Watson, T.L., 1907, Mineral resources of Virginia: The Virginia Jamestown Exposition Commission, Lynchburg, Virginia, J.P. Bell Company, p. 226-227.