Iron mines and prospects in Virginia

Iron is a heavy, ductile metal with the chemical symbol Fe.  By weight, iron is the most abundant element on Earth.  It is chemically active and combines readily with carbon dioxide, oxygen, sulfur or silica to form many common minerals.  About 98% of iron production is used in the manufacture of iron and steel.

Year of first production in Virginia: 1609
Location of first production in Virginia: near Jamestown, James City County
Year of last production in Virginia: 1942
Location of last production in Virginia: near Clifton Forge, Alleghany County
Total cumulative production in Virginia: approximately 26,000,000 long tons
Current annual production in Virginia: none

Iron was one of the first mineral resources discovered and extracted by the colonists at Jamestown, reportedly mined as early as 1609.  During colonial times, production was widespread, with many small mines feeding small iron furnaces across Virginia.  In the nineteenth century, production became concentrated in belts of rich iron ore along the flanks of the Blue Ridge mountains, and in the sandstones of the Valley and Ridge Province.

In Virginia, most of the iron was extracted from limonite (Fe2O3+H2O), hematite (Fe2O3), magnetite (Fe3O4), and carbonate deposits (siderite, FeCO3), with limonite as the major source of iron.

Selected References:

Gooch, E. O., 1954, Iron in Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Mineral Resource Circular 1, 17 p.

Spears, D. B., and Upchurch, M. L., 1997, Metallic mines, prospects and occurrences in the gold-pyrite belt of Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 147, 73 p.

Whisonant, R. C., 1998, Geology and history of the Civil War iron industry in the New River-Cripple Creek district of southwestern Virginia: Virginia Minerals, vol. 44, no. 4, pp.25-35.