Diatomite – Production and Use (2009-2013)

Diatomaceous Earth Magnified (c) Barbara McLean


(Data in thousand metric tons unless otherwise noted)

Domestic Production and Use: In 2013, production of diatomite was estimated at 770,000 tons with an estimated processed value of $220 million, f.o.b. plant. Six companies produced diatomite at 10 mining areas and 9 processing facilities in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Diatomite is frequently used in filter aids, 56%; cement, 15%; fillers, 14%; absorbents, 13%; and less than 2% for other applications, including specialized pharmaceutical and biomedical uses. The unit value of diatomite varied widely in 2013, from approximately $7.00 per ton for use as a lightweight aggregate in portland cement concrete to more than $400 per ton for limited specialty markets, including art supplies, cosmetics, and DNA extraction.

Diatomite Frequency Use Chart
Diatomite Frequency Use Chart (2013), Global Earth Regeneration
Salient Statistics—United States: 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013e
Production1 575 595 813 735 770
Imports for consumption 1 1 2 3 1
Exports 88 86 106 96 102
Consumption, apparent 488 510 709 642 669
Price, average value, dollars per ton, f.o.b. plant 255 299 269 286 286
Stocks, producer, yearende 40 40 40 40 40
Employment, mine and plant, numbere 670 660 660 660 660
Net import reliance2 as a percentage of apparent consumption E E E E E










Recycling: None.

Import Sources (2009-12): Mexico, 35%; France, 31%; Italy, 11%; and others, 23%.

Tariff: Item Number Normal Trade Relations 12-31-13
Siliceous fossil meals, including diatomite 2512.00.0000 Free.





Depletion Allowance: 14% (Domestic and foreign). Government Stockpile: None.



Events, Trends, and Issues: The amount of domestically produced diatomite sold or used by producers in 2013 increased 5% compared with that of 2012. Apparent domestic consumption increased 4% in 2013; exports increased by 6%. Filtration (including the purification of beer, liquors, and wine, and the cleansing of greases and oils) continued to be the largest end use for diatomite, also known as diatomaceous earth. Domestically, production of diatomite used as an absorbent was the next largest use. An important application for diatomite is the removal of microbial contaminants, such as bacteria, protozoa, and viruses in public water systems. Other applications for diatomite include filtration of human blood plasma, pharmaceutical processing, and use as a nontoxic insecticide.

World Mine Production and Reserves:

Mine production Reserves3
2012 2013e
United States1 735 770 250,000
Argentina 55 60 NA
China 420 420 110,000
Denmark4 (processed) 338 325 NA
France 75 75 NA
Japan 100 100 NA
Mexico 85 85 NA
Peru 81 80 NA
Spain 50 50 NA
Other countries 181 180 NA
World total (rounded) 2,120 2,150 Large








World Resources: World resources of crude diatomite are adequate for the foreseeable future. Transportation costs will continue to determine the maximum economic distance most forms of diatomite may be shipped and still remain competitive with alternative materials.

Substitutes: Many materials can be substituted for diatomite. However, the unique properties of diatomite assure its continuing use in many applications. Expanded perlite and silica sand compete for filtration. Synthetic filters, notably ceramic, polymeric, or carbon membrane filters and filters made with cellulose fibers, are becoming competitive as filter media. Alternate filler materials include clay, ground limestone, ground mica, ground silica sand, perlite, talc, and vermiculite. For thermal insulation, materials such as various clays, exfoliated vermiculite, expanded perlite, mineral wool, and special brick can be used.

eEstimated. E Net exporter. NA Not available. Processed ore sold and used by producers.

2Defined as imports – exports + adjustments for Government and industry stock changes. 3See Appendix C for resource/reserve definitions and information concerning data sources. “Includes sales of moler production.

U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, February 2014 (p.52-53)

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