Culpeper County, Virginia
The mining industry in Culpeper County presently includes operations that are conducted at six locations under mineral mining permits issued by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Division of Mineral Mining. These mines produce crushed stone for roadstone and concrete aggregate, and dimension stone for monuments and other architectural applications. The total area included under the permits is about 1,453 acres (Table 1).
During 2008, the latest year for which production data is available, two mining operations produced about 1.2 million short tons of crushed stone from sandstone and diabase. Three other operations reported about 15,670 short tons of diabase marketed as dimension stone. The total estimated value of all stone produced in 2008 was over 14.4 million dollars (Table 2). The total tonnage reported in 2008 was about 27 percent lower than the tonnage reported in 2007, likely a reflection of the decreased demand for construction raw materials in the current economy. The mines employed a total of 94 workers in 2008, an increase from 83 reported in 2007, not including independent contractors (Table 3).
At the Rapidan Quarry, located in southern Culpeper County just north of Buena, Cedar Mountain Stone Corporation mines Jurassic-age diabase and produces crushed stone products. This mine is the largest operation in the county with respect to production tonnage and employment. Luck Stone Corporation mines Triassic-age sandstone at the Culpeper Plant, located just west of Stevensburg. This stone is marketed for roadstone, asphalt stone, and concrete aggregate. New England Stone Industries, Buena Black Granite Corporation, Virginia Black Granite, and Granite Managers, Inc., quarry diabase near Buena for a wide range of dimension stone products.
Historically, diabase in the Buena area has been of interest for a variety of purposes. Watson (1907) described the unusual character of the Jurassic-age diabase columns that make up the “Twins”, also known as Buzzard Mountain, located about 1.25 miles east of Buena, and noted the existence of a quarry at that time. He also noted the similarity of the “Twins” diabase to the stone at Mount Pony, another prominent peak located just southeast of Culpeper. Roberts (1928) described the Buzzard Mountain Quarry that was opened in 1919 by the Southern Railroad and produced railroad ballast until about 1926. After that date, Buena Granite Company operated the quarry, possibly renamed the Twin Mountain quarry, and produced dimension stone that was said to have polished characteristics very similar to the “Gettysburg granite” mined near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Polished blocks from the quarry near Buzzard Mountain were reportedly used in the construction of the Chevy Chase Bank and Shannon-Lucks Building in Washington, D.C. (Steidtmann, 1945). In addition to diabase, granite and gneiss were reported to be quarried for road metal by the State Department of Highways along the Hazel River, about 2.5 miles southeast of Boston (Steidtmann, 1945).
Sandstone was mined in the past at several locations in the county for roadstone, but also for use as building stone and dimension stone. Roberts (1928) described the State Quarry, located about a mile west of Stevensburg, which was opened in 1922 and furnished good quantities of crushed stone for construction of State Route 3. In 1954, the quarry was purchased and operated as Culpeper Stone Company, Inc., producing a variety of crushed stone products for road construction, asphalt mixtures, concrete, erosion control, and landscaping applications (Gooch and others, 1960). Since that time, the quarry has been in nearly continuous operation under several different operators, the current operator being Luck Stone Corporation. The Triassic-age sandstone in the quarry is noted for the occurrence of dinosaur tracks (Weems, 1987).
Limestone was reportedly quarried near Jennings Store for use as agricultural stone. Limestone was also produced from the abandoned Roberts Quarry, located along Mountain Run, about 1.5 miles northwest of Edwards Shop. Mack (1965) reported that this quarry produced limestone from the Everona Limestone (possibly mapped as part of the Cambrian-age Candler Formation), that was used for ground agricultural lime and reportedly also burned to produce lime.
Clay materials were mined for use in brick plants at Culpeper and Elkwood, and for use in the manufacture of brick and tile at Stevensburg (DGMR Economic Geology Files). Calver and others (1961) reported the results of laboratory testing for four samples of clay, shale, and mudstone collected from Triassic-age units in the southeastern portion of the county. Samples from outcrops near Kellys Ford and Lignum indicated potential suitability for use in the manufacture of brick, tile, and structural clay products. Sweet (1986) reported that another sample of clay collected in the northern portion of the Chancellorsville 7.5-minute quadrangle also had characteristics suitable for structural clay products.
Gold was mined or prospected in the past at about twenty known localities in eastern Culpeper County. The most significant sites include the Culpeper, Ellis, and Hill mines, where the combined production may have exceeded 1,800 ounces (Sweet and Trimble, 1983). At the Culpeper Mine, located 2 miles east of Richardsonville, gold-bearing pyrite is found in a massive quartz vein that is up to 30 feet in width, enclosed in quartz-sericite schist mapped as the Chopawamsic Formation. The mine was worked intermittently between 1836 and 1905, and at least two shafts were sunk to depths of about 100 feet. In the 1850s, a 12-stamp mill was in operation (Luttrell, 1966). The majority of the gold mines and prospects are situated in the northern portion of the Gold-Pyrite Belt, a mineralized zone that extends from central Appomattox County northeastward to the Potomac River in Fairfax County (Lonsdale, 1927). One exception is the Hill Mine, located about 2.5 miles northwest of Culpeper, in the southeast corner of the Castleton 7.5-minute quadrangle. At this site, gold-bearing quartz veins are hosted by graphite-chlorite-epidote schist mapped as part of the Lynchburg Group.
Copper mineralization has been noted and prospected at three main locations in the county. The Batna Mine, located on the north side of the Rapidan River in the southern part of the county, was operated in the early 1800s. Copper occurs in the minerals chalcopyrite, azurite, and malachite that are found as both vein fills in fissures and as disseminations in Triassic-age shale and sandstone. Although there was some mine development, copper production was likely very limited at this site. The Culpeper prospect is located about 2.5 miles south of Culpeper near the Southern Railway. Luttrell (1966) reports that limited exploration may have occurred at this site as early as 1917. The copper minerals include chalcopyrite, azurite, and malachite, but hematite, an iron-bearing oxide mineral, is also frequently associated. The mineralized zone may be associated with Jurassic-age basalt and contact metaphorphic alteration of Triassic-age conglomerates. The Ellis Mine, located about 2 miles northeast of Richardsville was opened in the 1870s and operated intermittently until about 1904, primarily for gold. Copper, in chalcopyrite, was noted as a significant component of the ore, which is hosted by quartz-sericite schist.
Sand and gravel deposits in and near the Hazel River near Monument Mills have been dredged historically for use as masonry, paving, concrete, and ice-control sand by Culpeper Sand Company, Monumental Sand Company, and most recently E. R. Compton (DGMR Economic Geology Files).
An occurrence of soapstone located about 1 mile northeast of Richardsville was investigated by DGMR staff in 1955. The deposit was described as low grade, possibly suitable for ground soapstone products, but the apparent extent was limited (DGMR Economic Geology Files). In the past, exploration and prospecting has focused on other commodities including barite, base metals, and uranium, yet no deposits of economic value have been identified to date.
Table 1 - Active Mining Operations in 2009
Table 2 - Summary of Annual Mine Production and Mineral Value
Table 3 - Summary of Mine Workers, Hours and Wages
Table 4 - Summary of Historic Mineral Resources Development
Culpeper County Geologic Map
Culpeper County Geologic Descriptions
Culpeper County Mineral Production, 1986-present
Culpeper County Active Mines, 1990-present
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Calver, J.L., Hamlin, H.P., and Wood, R.S., 1961, Analyses of clay, shale, and related materials – northern counties: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Mineral Resources Report 2, p. 27-31.
Sweet, P.C., 1976, Clay material resources in Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Mineral Resources Report 13, 56 p.
Sweet, P.C., 1986, Clay material samples collected 1981-1984: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 68, p. 31-33.
Luttrell, G.W., 1966, Base- and precious-metal and related ore deposits of Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Mineral Resources Report 7, 167 p.
Sweet, P.C., Good, R.S., Lovett, J.A., Campbell, E.V.M., Wilkes, G.P., and Meyers, L.L., 1989, Copper, lead, and zinc resources in Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 93, p. 54-58.
Watson, T.L., 1907, Mineral resources of Virginia: The Virginia Jamestown Exposition Commission, J.P. Bell Company, Lynchburg, Virginia, p. 518.
Roberts, J.K., 1928, The Geology of the Virginia Triassic: Virginia Geological Survey Bulletin 29, 205 p.
Sweet, P.C., 1990, Present and future dimension stone industry in Virginia, in: Zupan A.W., and Maybin, A.H. (eds), Proceedings of the 24th Forum on the Geology of Industrial Minerals, May 2-5, 1988, Greenville, South Carolina, p. 129-135.
Watson, T.L., 1907, Mineral resources of Virginia: The Virginia Jamestown Exposition Commission, J.P. Bell Company, Lynchburg, Virginia, p. 38-39.
Webb, H.W., and Sweet, P.C., 1992, Interesting uses of stone in Virginia – Part I, Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Virginia Minerals, V38, No 4.
General – geology and mineral resources
Furcron, A.S., 1939, Geology and mineral resources of the Warrenton Quadrangle, Virginia: Virginia Geological Survey Bulletin 54, 94 p.
Gilmer, A.K., Enomoto, C.B., Lovett, J.A., and Spears, D.B., 2005, Mineral and fossil fuel production in Virginia (1999-2003): Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Open-File Report 05-04.
Rader, E.K., and Evans, N.H., editors, 1993, Geologic Map of Virginia – Expanded Explanation: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, 80 p.
VA Division of Mineral Resources, 2003, Digital representation of the 1993 geologic map of Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 174.
Weems, R.E., 1987, A Late Triassic footprint fauna from the Culpeper Basin, Northern Virginia (U.S.A.): Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol 77, Part 1, 79 p.
Lonsdale, J.T., 1927, Geology of the Gold-Pyrite Belt of the northeastern Piedmont Virginia: Virginia Geological Survey Bulletin 30, p. 84-85.
Luttrell, G.W., 1966, Base- and precious-metal and related ore deposits of Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Mineral Resources Report 7, 167 p.
Sweet, P. C., 1975, Road log to some abandoned gold mines of the Gold-Pyrite Belt, northeastern Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Virginia Minerals vol 21, no 1, 11 p.
Sweet, P. C., 1980, Gold in Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 19, p. 10-12.
Sweet, P. C., and Trimble, D., 1983, Virginia Gold Resource Data: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 45, p. 183-192.
Watson, T.L., 1907, Mineral resources of Virginia: The Virginia Jamestown Exposition Commission, J.P. Bell Company, Lynchburg, Virginia, p. 554.
Steidtmann, E., 1945, Commercial granites and other crystalline rocks of Virginia: Virginia Geological Survey Bulletin 64, p. 46.
Mack, T., 1965, Characteristics of the Everona Formation in Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Information Circular 10, p. 11.
Sandstone Gooch, E.O., Wood, R.S., and Parrott, W.T., 1960, Sources of aggregate used in Virginia highway construction: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Mineral Resources Report 001, p. 33-34.