Domestic Production and Use: In 2017, domestic mine production decreased, but production data were withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data. An estimated 1.91 million tons of barite (from domestic production and imports) was sold by crushers and grinders operating in eight States. More than 90% of the barite sold in the United States was used as a weighting agent in fluids used in the drilling of oil and natural gas wells. The majority of Nevada crude barite was ground in Nevada and then sold to companies drilling in the Central and Western United States. Offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico and onshore drilling operations in other regions primarily used imported barite.

Barite also is used as a filler, extender, or weighting agent in products such as paints, plastics, and rubber. Some specific applications include use in automobile brake and clutch pads, automobile paint primer for metal protection and gloss, use as a weighting agent in rubber, and in the cement jacket around underwater petroleum pipelines. In the metal-casting industry, barite is part of the mold-release compounds. Because barite significantly blocks x-ray and gamma-ray emissions, it is used as aggregate in high-density concrete for radiation shielding around x-ray units in hospitals, nuclear powerplants, and university nuclear research facilities. Ultrapure barite is used as a contrast medium in x-ray and computed tomography examinations of the gastrointestinal tract.

Events, Trends, and Issues: Sales from grinding plants in all States increased by an estimated 34% as compared with 2016. Sales in all regions, including Texas, Louisiana, and all other States, increased, but percentage increases differed significantly by region. Barite sales in Louisiana increased by 3%, sales in Texas increased by an estimated 96%, and sales in all other States increased by an estimated 18% compared with 2016. The pattern of recovery likely reflects the overall recovery in U.S. drilling activity, with most gains in drilling-rig count concentrated in the Permian Basin.

Domestic mine production continued to decrease. Only two mines and one temporary mining project were active throughout 2017. One mine that had been idled for approximately 3 years initiated closure activities, but intended to continue processing stockpiled ore. Recovery in drilling activity in the Central and Western United States was more muted, which likely prolonged the downturn in domestic mine production.

World Mine Production and Reserves: In response to concerns about dwindling global reserves of 4.2-specific gravity barite used by the oil and gas drilling industry, the American Petroleum Institute issued an alternate specification for 4.1-specific gravity barite in 2010. This has likely stimulated exploration and expansion of global barite resources. Estimated reserves data are included only if developed since the adoption of the 4.1-specific gravity standard. Reserves data for China were revised based on Government information.

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