Minerals and Geology - Minerals on the Ouachita N
By: John C. Nichols, Forest Geologist
This information was originally developed for the Ouachita National Forest Amended Land and Resource Plan of 1990. The information on numbers and locations of operations, and on tonnages produced was current to 1989.
Unreferenced technical descriptions are the unfortunate result of changing information over the years to create different kinds of non-technical information, and subsequent loss of the original reference. Our appologies to the authors. The descriptions are intended to be general. The bibleography which contains all the references orignally consulted to develop much of this information is on the geology webpage. Be careful what you quote. In future updates, the technical references will be added back.
- Mineral Commodities of the Ouachita National Forest
- Mineral Occurances on the Ranger Districts
Mineral Commodities of the Ouachita National Forest
The Ouachita National Forest is located in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains through the west central portion of Arkansas and the southeastern portion of Oklahoma in the physiographic province referred to as the "Ouachita Province". The Tiak Ranger District of the Ouachita Forest, in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma, is not contiguous with the main Forest division but is located in the "Gulf Coastal Plain Province" south of the Ouachita Province. The Ouachita mountains are in the midst of a very diverse and active minerals industry in Arkansas and Oklahoma, including: producing fields of oil, gas, and coal, the nations only diamond mine, bromine (for which Arkansas leads the world in production), major barite deposits (for which Arkansas once lead the nation in production), a significant aluminum industry, lead, zinc, manganese, vanadium, and titanium mines, the largest producing quartz crystal zone in North America,the leading producer of whetstone, vast amounts of crushed stone, sand and gravel, and many other mineral commodities. The following is a discussion of some of the mineral commodities produced from the Ouachita National Forest.
Asphaltite was discovered in the Oklahoma Ouachita Mountains and worked in Oklahoma in the period from 1903 to 1924. Asphaltite is a solidified hydrocarbon compound derived from petroleum. Its present day occurrence reportedly is of principle interest to the oil and gas industry as an indication of the petroleum-bearing character of the rocks in the area (Ham, 1956). Two types of asphaltite -- grahamite and impsonite -- were worked in the period from 1903 to 1924. It is reported that approximately 90,000 tons of asphaltite, equivalent to about 1 million barrels of oil, was produced during this 21 year period in the U.S. (Fay, 1976). The asphaltites occur as vein and fissure fillings generally within the Jackfork Formation. During World War I, impsonite was mined for the vanadium, a valuable alloy element in the manufacturing of steel. Vanadium was obtained from the ash of burned impsonite. The only Oklahoma impsonite occurrence and mine was near Page, Oklahoma in the Jackfork Sandstone Formation on the Choctaw Ranger District in the NE1/4 SE1/4 Sec.24, T3N R26E (Cardott, 1989). Ham reports that 2,000 pounds of vanadium-bearing impsonite ash, representing about 200,000 tons of mined impsonite, was shipped from Page for the war effort. A second, albeit less impressive, impsonite occurrence is reported by Ham just across the state line in Scott County, Arkansas, near Eagleton(?) on the Mena Ranger District. Ham reports two occurences of grahamite, an asphaltite, on the Choctaw Ranger District west of Page, Oklahoma, and on the Kiamichi Ranger District south of Big Cedar, Oklahoma. Howell also reports an asphaltite deposit in the Trinity sandstone in SWNW of Section 20, T7S, R24E just northeast of Idabel near the Tiak Ranger District (Howell, 1959). There are at least 14 other localities of grahamite in the Oklahoma Ouachita Mountains west of the Forest boundary. Grahamite had been mined in the early 1900's primarily for roofing compounds used during that time period.
Barite is a sulphate of barium and is characteristically a heavy, relatively soft mineral with a high specific gravity. It occurs primarily in the Stanley Shale Formation and occasionally in the middle Arkansas Novaculite. Barite is crushed and ground for use in well-drilling muds (over 90% of barite is utilized by the oil and gas industry), paint, filler in rubber, plastics, glass, and for manufacture of barium chemicals. For a period of time during the 1940's into the 1960's, Arkansas lead the nation in barite production. Barite had been actively mined on the Caddo Ranger District by at least two major barite mining companies (N.L.Baroid and Milchem) until the early 1980's. The two primary mining districts include:
- The Pigeon Roost Mountain District in T4S R23&24W, and
- The Fancy Hill District in T4S R25-27W, which includes these deposits:
- Gap Mountain deposit (Yount) T4S R25W Sec.19 to T4S R26W Sec.23; occurs in Stanley Shale; four lenticular deposits of barite ore 300 to 1200 feet long by 3 to 30 feet thick within a zone 100 to 150 feet thick.
- Fancy Hill deposit (Henderson deposit) T4S R26W Sec.19&29 occurs in Stanley Shale; barite bearing Stanley Shale is 30 to 80 feet thick and lies between black shale and sandstone; most barite resembles novaculite; six high grade barite deposits from 300 to 1800 feet long by 1 to 18 inches thick within a zone 15 to 40 feet thick.
- Sulphur Mountain deposit (McKnight deposit) T4S R26W Sec.29; occurs in Stanley Shale; bedded barite.
- d. Cogburn deposit T4S R26W Sec. 32&33 Arkansas Novaculite and Stanley Shale; lenses of high grade ore 15 to 25 feet thick within a zone 50 feet thick.
- Polk Creek Mountain deposit T4S R27W Sec.12; Middle Arkansas Novaculite; Nodular barite in shale beds traced over one mile with a maximum stratigraphic thickness of 24 feet; crystalline barite noted in loose material suspected to be from a vein.
- Boone Springs Creek deposit T4S R27W Sec.24; Middle Arkansas Novaculite; vein 1 foot thick by 24 feet long.
Barite produced in Montgomery County between 1957 and 1961 was valued at more than $250,000. In 1979, the U.S. Bureau of Mines reported that the United States was the largest producer and consumer of barite in the world and that the future of barite was dependent on the oil and gas well drilling activity, which consumed 93 percent of the barite production. In the early 1980's, the oil glut adversely affected the barite market. A multi-million dollar barite mine and mill complex constructed by Milchem Inc. on and adjacent to National Forest lands on the Caddo Ranger District was closed in 1982 before barite mining and milling operations were able to start.
The Pigeon Roost and Fancy Hill Districts are located about midway between the Hatfield District (on the Forest) south of Mena, Arkansas, and the Magnet Cove Mining District (off the Forest) and east of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Historically, the Magnet Cove Mining District produced a significant amount of barite. It is reported that in 1958 the Magnet Cove District produced more than 46 million tons of barite. However, the Hatfield Mining District in T3S, R30&31W on the Mena Ranger District was prospected in the 1940's and 1950's, but no development or production of the barite deposits occurred there. Prospects in the Hatfield Mining District were centered at Bee Mountain (T3S R31W Sec.15), north and south Boar Tusk Mountain (T3S R31W Sec.23; T3S R31WSec.22; T3S R30W Sec.33), and Two Mile Creek (T3S R31W Sections 11 & 13).
Coal in the Hartshorne, McAlester, and Savanna Formations is present primarily on the Cold Springs, Poteau, and Choctaw Ranger Districts in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The northern portions of the Poteau and Cold Springs Ranger Districts are within the "Arkansas Valley Coal Field". Coal has been actively mined from aproximately three acres on the Poteau Ranger District in T3N R32W Sec. 5, 6, and 7 between 1970 and 1979. Inquires into the availability of this deposit were received by the Forest early in 1988. Coal exploration on the Poteau Ranger District occurred between 1978 to 1981 in T3N R31W and R32W. Identified reserves of coal are present just off and to the north of the Choctaw Ranger District near Heavener, Oklahoma. A proposal to develop Federal coal reserves within 3 1/2 miles north of the Forest boundary in T5N R25W Sec.25 of Oklahoma, was evaluated by the USDI-BLM Oklahoma Resource Area in October 1988.
Common varieties of sand, gravel and building stone are removed from most of the formations throughout the Forest. These mineral materials have domestic and commercial applications primarily for building and home improvement purposes.
- In 1986, approximately 129,550 Tons of common variety mineral materials valued at $33,230 were disposed of from the Ouachita National Forest.
- In 1987, approximately 72,573 Tons of common variety mineral materials valued at $24,870 were disposed of from the Forest.
- In 1988, approximately 93,706 Tons of common variety mineral materials valued at $21,613 were disposed of from the Forest.
Native copper occuring in thin wire and sheets are reported within several Arkansas Novaculite fractures and bedding planes. Assays of up to 17 percent copper were reported from within a 600-foot exploration tunnel driven in the 1920's in T4S R27W Sec.10 on the Caddo Ranger District. This site is referred to as the: North Mountain mine; Statehouse Mtn.; Copper Lume; Stenger mine. The site was intermittently mined around 1886, World War I, and in 1958-59 for manganese. Cuprite, native copper, malachite, turquoise (?), and possibly chrysocolla are associated with the manganese as are iron minerals and very thin quartz veins. The minerals from this site are of interest primarily to the "rockhounder" and mineral specimen collector. Two winzes 96 feet and 150 feet were sunk, and one revealed some copper. However, the underground workings are now inaccessible. No production records apparently exist for any mineral except manganese.
Exploration for gas and oil (primarily gas) has occurred throughout the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma, but it has primarily focused on the Ranger Districts in Oklahoma and the northern half of the Forest in Arkansas. From 1972 to 1986, gas wells were drilled on the Fourche Ranger District (T4N R25W Sec.25 - 1972; T5N R22W Sec.32 - 1985), Cold Springs Ranger District (T3N R27W Sec.1 - 1983), and Poteau Ranger District (T2N R32W Sec.3 - 1983; T2N R32W Sec.8 - 1983), to depths of from 5900 feet to 17000 feet. None are producing wells, although the presence of hydrocarbons were indicated in most. Exploration primarily for gas subsided on the Forest in 1985 with the drop in oil and gas prices in the world market. Geophysical exploration which had been active on the Forest up to that time was virtually nonexistent in 1986 and 1987; however, it resumed on the Choctaw, Kiamichi, Cold Springs, Fourche and Poteau Ranger Districts in 1988. As a result of the 1987 Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act (PL 100-203), the first competitve bidding for oil and gas leases on the Ouachita National Forest in April and December of 1988 brought in additional revenues. While no competitive bid bonus' were received in the April, 1988 sale, over 50 new leases were issued "over-the counter" after the April sale. However, the December sale brought in over $150,000 of bid bonus revenue for 17 new leases on 9,200 acres in T3N R32W on the Poteau Ranger District in Arkansas. In 1989, interest in oil and gas leases on the Ouachita National Forest took a very different and significant turn. In the April, 1989 lease sale, 46 leases sold covering 23,000 acres of Ouachita National Forest lands in Arkansas, and bringing in an unprecidented $17,200,000 in bonus bid royalties. The lease sale in August, 1989, resulted in 32 leases sold covering 29,000 acres of Ouachita National Forest lands in Arkansas, and bringing in $6,300,000 in bonus bid royalties. The Forest lands involved in these 2 lease sales are in Arkansas Townships 4 and 5 North, Ranges 21 thru 28 West, on the Fourche and Cold Springs Ranger Districts. The lease sale held in October, 1989, resulted in 14 leases sold covering 18,052 acres of Ouachita National Forest lands in Oklahoma, and bringing in $4,946,563 in bonus bid royalties. The Forest lands involved in this sale are in Oklahoma Townships 2 thru 5 North, Ranges 23 thru 25 East on the Choctaw and Kiamichi Ranger Districts.Exploration interest also rebounded in 1989 with the District Rangers issuing approximately 34 permits to seismic companies for geophysical exploration on about 232 miles of seismic lines across the Choctaw, Fourche, Cold Springs, Poteau, Winona and Kiamichi Ranger Districts. Federal revenues generated from these Forest Service issued permits amounted to over $223,000 for 1989. Arkansas gas fields are within several miles north of the Poteau Ranger District in the Arkoma basin. According to one source, "...the presence of oil, gas, and solid hydrocarbons in some abundance in the Oklahoma Ouachitas appears to warrant an optimistic attitude toward oil and gas possibilities in the Ouachita region of Arkansas" (Caplan, 1963). The Arkoma Basin, present in northwestern Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, is a significant gas producer.
Historical interest in precious metals led to past prospecting for gold in the Ouachita Mountains, just as elsewhere throughout the nation. However, no discovery of an economic gold deposit has been made on the Ouachita National Forest. An excerpt from State of Arkansas Geological Commission (AGC) paper on gold provides a synopsis of the historical results of past prospecting efforts in the Ouachitas:
"Numerous reports and rumors of gold finds in Arkansas prior to 1890 prompted an investigation by Dr. T.B. Comstock under the direction of the State Geologist, Mr. John C. Branner. Dr. Comstock was charged with an examination of those portions of the state said to yield precious metals. His study and results are presented in the Annual Report, Geological Survey of Arkansas - 1888, Volume 1. Although this report is out of print, a copy may be available in larger libraries for public examination. The incontrovertible conclusion to be drawn from Dr. Comstock's work is that no gold exists in workable quantities in the areas and mines which he examined.In 1923 investigations by A. H. Purdue and H. D. Miser of the Hot Springs area were published by the United States Geological Survey as the Hot Springs Folio (Geologic Atlas). Samples collected by Mr. Miser showed minor amounts of silver and gold present in vein material associated with nepheline syenite in Garland County. The vein shows no free milling gold, but is composed of a suite of minerals including chalcedony, fluorite, pyrite, barite and traces of galena. Several veins were sampled in 1965 by geologists of the Arkansas Geological Commission. The presence of gold was confirmed in one vein. A further investigation of the mineralogy of these veins by Dr. Charles Milton revealed the presence of a host of other minerals besides those reported by Mr. Miser. It appears that gold is present in one or more of the minerals in the veins. With the recent escalation of the world market price of gold, interest of the general public in gold prospecting has rapidly increased. At present, no workable quantities of gold have been discovered in Arkansas." (Howard, 1988)
"Interest in gold mining in Arkansas recurs from time to time, but the greatest activity took place between 1885 and 1888 when it is estimated that gold mining companies capitalized at more than 11 million dollars were engaged in prospecting in western Arkansas. In 1888 the chemist of the Arkansas Geological Survey assayed 183 samples reported to contain gold from Pulaski, Saline, Garland, Hot Spring, Yell, Montgomery, Pike, Sevier, Polk, Scott, and Logan Counties. Of these, 129 contained no gold, 51 contained traces, and 3 from Garland County contained 0.04, 0.06, and 0.08 ounces per ton. It should be remembered, however, that these samples were carefully selected and do not represent in any way what might be termed average recoveries from any given quantity of rock." (AGC, 1959, Bulletin #6)
Several sites were sampled on two Ranger Districts in the 1980's in response to questions on gold values at these locations. Assay analysis from the samples are discussed:
Caddo Ranger District -- October 1988: T4S R28W Sec.5 SW (McKinley Mtn.). Three Samples taken by the Forest Service in October 1988, were submitted to the USDI Bureau of Mines (USBM) precious metals lab in Reno, Nevada for analysis. USBM assay results are as follows:
"The analysis of the samples did not show any elements which would make the rock non-amenable to direct fire assay. S/S #2 and 3 did contain larger than normal amounts of iron. The presence of large amounts of iron, however, do not present any particular problem to the fire assay procedure. The fire assay results show no indication of gold in the samples above our detection limit of 0.003 oz/ton (0.10 parts per million or 1 ppb). The samples were also assayed by a combined fire assay/ICP procedure for platinum, palladium, and gold. No platinum, palladium, rhodium, or gold were detected. In addition to theses tests, we also ran a cyanide leach test on sample S/S #2. This method also showed no gold to be recovered at the detection limit of 0.009 oz/ton as determined by atomic absorption." (excerpt from November 15, 1988 report from USBM Research Supervisor K.G. Broadhead)
July 1983: T4S R27W Sec.10; North Mountain mine/ Statehouse/ Copper Lume/ Stenger mine; Samples taken by the Forest Service in 1983 show the following values: Gold - less than 0.0015 ounces per ton for each of four samples; Silver - ranges from 0.015 to 0.058 ounces per ton for each of four samples; Lead - 32 to 68 parts per million (ppm) in two samples; Zinc - 73 to 120 ppm in two samples; Manganese - 0.07% to 0.54% in four samples.
May 1988: Samples taken by the Arkansas Geological Commissionand assayed only for gold by the U.S. Geological Survey in May, 1988 show the following values:
T4S R28W Sec.5 SESW (McKinley Mtn.) -- two samples, each showing gold at 2 parts per billion
T4S R27W Sec.10 SENW (North Mtn. Mine / Copper Lume) -- two samples, each showing gold at 2 parts per billion
T4S R27W Sec.18 NESW (Sugartree Mtn.) -- two samples, each showing gold at 2 parts per billion
Mena Ranger District -- August 1984: T3S R31W Sec.22 (Bee Mtn); Samples taken by the Forest Service in 1984 show the following values: Gold - "Nil" (none) for each of ten samples; Silver - ranges from "Nil" to 0.09 ounces per ton for each of ten samples; Lead - 6 and 8 parts per million (ppm) in two samples; Zinc - 8 and 15 ppm in two samples; Manganese - 75, 149, and 212 ppm in three samples.
Manganese is essential for the production of steel, its primary use, and is also important in the production of aluminum and cast iron. Manganese mineralization generally occurs through the Arkansas Novaculite Formation in the Mena, Caddo, and Womble Ranger Districts. THe primary manganese-bearing minerals are psilomelane and pyrolusite with lesser occurrances of manganite, lithiophorite, wad, and braunite. In the 1950's (particularly from 1955-59) the Federal Government initiated a manganese stockpile purchase program that stimulated prospecting for and development of manganese on and adjacent to the Forest. Production from mines developed during this period ceased in 1959 when the purchase program ended. Manganese mines were productive on the Womble, Caddo, and Mena Ranger Districts during the brief 1950's manganese mining period. The major producers were on the Caddo and Womble Ranger Districts. However, the bulk of the exploration activity occurred on the Caddo and Mena Ranger Districts. Arkansas is reportedly one of the five most significant areas in the United States with important manganese resources (Higgins, 1983). Other minerals occasionally associated with manganese include cobalt, copper, nickel, and lithium. Note: In the early 1980's, a manganese promotion scheme was perpetrated involving mining claims in T3S R29W Secs.26-28, T3S R31W Sec.24, T4S R29W Sec.6, T4S R30W Sec.24 on the Mena Ranger District. In 1983, legal action taken by stockholders in a California court, resulted in exposure of the scheme and a consequent prison sentence for a promoter. Eight samples were taken by the Arkansas Geological Commission in 1980 from the promoters' mining claims in T3S R31W Sec.24 with the conclusion that the Arkansas Novaculite at this site contained normal concentrations of the elements assayed as found elsewhere in the Ouachita Mountain region (AGC letter dated March 10, 1980).
The novaculite in the Arkansas Novaculite Formation is a siliceous rock mined primarily for use as oilstones or "whetstones", and as abrasives for industrial applications. It is also utilized as an aggregate for railroad ballast, roadstone, and concrete. Native americans had utilized novaculite for arrowheads and other tools in past times. Historically, the first use of the term "whetstone" was in reference to stone from Arkansas. The earliest record of a novaculite whetstone quarry in the Ouachitas was in 1818. Novaculite is a very hard and dense very fine grained sedimentary and almost pure silica (SiO2) material. Carbonate (CaCO3, which occurred in conjunction with the silica structure of the novaculite) that has been leached out plus the physical characteristics of the microscopic grains of silica themselves, makes novaculite the preferred whetstone material for quality sharpening of knives, surgical instruments, and other tools for both domestic and industrial purposes. Only about 5 percent of the blocks quarried for whetstones end up as finished stones. Varieties of whetstone novaculite include hard "Arkansas Stone" and the similar but more porous "Ouachita or Washita Stone". Novaculite from the lower part of the Lower Division of the Arkansas Novaculite Formation is mined on the Caddo Ranger District and on private lands near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Whetstone quality novaculite is currently mined on the Caddo Ranger District in T5S R26W Sec. 6 (Hall #1).
In 1969, slate was considered to be the foremost mineral product of Montgomery County, which has a history of slate production dating back to 1902. Slate mining occured primarily in the Stanley Shale and Missouri Mountain Slate, and historically in the Mazarn Shale and Womble Shale. Slate is a metamorphosed shale. The best slate in Arkansas reportedly occurs in the Stanley Shale, Missouri Mountain Shale, and Polk Creek shale in the Ouachita Mountains. Currently, the only slate operation within the Forest boundary is on the Caddo Ranger District. The slate from the Stanley Shale Formation is crushed for roofing granules used in asphalt shingles and for other industrial purposes. The operation conducted by Genstar is in the N1/2 SW1/4 Sec.22 T4S R24W, immediately adjacent to Forest Service lands. The deposit and the direction of the current mining effort trends onto the Forest.
Tripoli occurs in the upper part of the Arkansas Novaculite Formation as a soft, fine grained, loosely coherent, high purity silica (SiO2) that readily breaks and is easily reduced to a fine powder. It is the result of calcium carbonate that has been leached from the Upper Division of the Arkansas Novaculite with the remaining recrystalized silica resulting in material that is now categorized as tripoli. Deposits of tripoli occur on the Caddo and Mena Ranger Districts. However, the only currently active tripoli mine is located on private land in T2S R18W Sec.21 just east of Hot Springs, Arkansas, and is being mined by Malvern Minerals Company. The Company sells the tripoli under the trade name "Novacite" for a very pure (over 99% SiO2) tripolitic material. According to company literature, 75 percent of the tripoli mined is used as a filler or extender, the remaining 25 percent is used in specialized abrasive applications.
Turquoise is a copper/aluminum phosphate. Turquoise or related minerals are reported in minor quantities at several sites in the Ouachita Mountains. However, a small turquoise deposit in T4S R30W Secs.23&24 on Porter Mountain (old McBride mine) of the Mena Ranger District is located in the Arkansas Novaculite Formation. Turquoise, a copper/aluminum phosphate mineral, is used primarily for jewelry purposes. This deposit has been intermittently mined and sold under the trade name of "Mona Lisa" turquoise since 1958.
Vanadium, V2O5, is a rare metallic element chiefly valuable as an alloy element in the manufacturing of steel. During World War I the asphaltite "impsonite" was mined for the vanadium which was obtained from the ash of burned impsonite. Impsonite is an asphaltite -- a solidified hydrocarbon compound derived from petroleum. The only Oklahoma impsonite occurrance and mine was near Page, Oklahoma on the Choctaw Ranger District. Ham reports that during World War I, 2000 pounds of vanadium bearing impsonite ash, representing about 200,000 tons of mined impsonite, was shipped from Page for the war effort (Ham, 1956). A 1% vanadium content from some wavellite zones near Avant in the Bigfork Chert Formation is reported. A vanadium mine and mill is located off the Forest just southeast of Hot Springs, Arkansas in Garland County, referred to as the Wilson Mineral Springs / Potash Sulfur Springs deposit (prospected since 1950; Union Carbide mined and milled the deposit from 1960 to the mid 1980's; Stratcor operated from mid 1980's to present). This deposit is within an igneous complex intruded into Arkansas Novaculite, Stanley Shale, and other Paleozoic age rocks. It is reported that Arkansas led the United States in vanadium production for several years, was third in the nation in 1979, and fourth in 1980 of five vanadium producing states. Arkansas vanadium production is solely from the Wilson Mineral Springs deposit.
Wavellite, an aluminum phosphate mineral, is found in minor quantities at several locations throughout the Ouachita Mountains. It is most notably concentrated in the Avant/Buckville area north of Lake Ouachita. A wavellite/variscite mine has been intermittently operated since 1965 in this area in T1S R22W within the Bigfork Chert Formation on the Jessieville Ranger District. It is reported that wavellite has been known to exist here since 1888. Wavellite is primarily of interest to mineral specimen collectors and has no other industrial application.