Industrial minerals are literally the minerals or raw materials of industry. They comprise generally the nonmetallic minerals and rocks used in indigenous industries and construction of all kinds, but exclude those used as fuels and from which metals are extracted. Most are of low value per unit weight or volume and cannot be economically transported long distances; therefore, they do not generally enter into export trade, as do many of the metallic minerals and coal. The utilization of industrial mineral resources accordingly affords a direct measure of the industrial diversity within the regional economy.
The value of production of industrial minerals in Alberta amounted to $65 million in 1971, which is just below 4 per cent of the total mineral production. This is a decline from the previous few years (caused by a decline in sulfur prices from record highs in 1966-69), although it represents a steady rise in tonnage production. The importance of these materials in Alberta is enhanced by their close association with the petroleum and petrochemical industries, both as input and processing requirements and as byproducts or coproducts at the extractive stage. Much of the existing knowledge of industrial mineral resources in fact has been acquired as an offshoot of petroleum exploration. It is clear, however, that industrial minerals (along with coal) eventually must inherit the role of petroleum as the major source of mineral wealth to the province, with greatly expanded use of these resources, new discoveries and newer ways of utilization with more efficient resource conservation.
Alberta's known deposits of industrial minerals are described below in groups according to their principal industrial use, beginning with the construction materials industry followed by the chemical and metallurgical industries and concluded with a group of miscellaneous industrial uses. These groupings may be logical for the current state of industrial development in the province, although undoubtedly for certain minerals the emphasis will shift from one industry to another in the future.