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Titanium mines and prospects in Virginia

Pure titanium is a lustrous, white metal with a low density, good strength, and excellent corrosion resistance.  Its chemical symbol is Ti.  The minerals ilmenite, FeTiO3, and rutile, TiO2, are the most common sources of titanium.  Most titanium production is used for the manufacture of white paint pigment; titanium metal is an important alloying agent with aluminum, molybdenum, manganese, and iron.  Titanium is a non-toxic metal capable of strengthening steel, and is used in the aerospace industry, in artificial joints and limbs, and in heart pacemakers.

Year of first production in Virginia: About 1900 (rutile); About 1920 (ilmenite)
Location of first production in Virginia: Roseland District, Nelson County
Year of last production in Virginia: currently producing
Location of last production in Virginia: current production from Old Hickory Mine, Stony Creek, Dinwiddie and Sussex Counties
Total cumulative production in Virginia: unknown
Current annual production in Virginia: unknown

Rutile was first mined in the Roseland district of Nelson and Amherst counties, from an anorthosite, for use as a coloring agent in ceramics.  Beginning around 1920, ilmenite from this district was mined and processed to extract titanium for use as a paint pigment and in titanium-steel alloys.  Titanium mining in the Roseland district ended in 1971.

Titanium minerals were also mined on a small scale in Goochland, Hanover, and Roanoke counties.  In Goochland and Hanover counties, rutile was produced from a biotite gneiss.  In Roanoke County, ilmenite and rutile were produced from a rock type called nelsonite.

In 1996, RGC Resources (now Iluka Resources) began mining ilmenite, rutile, zircon, and leucoxene from a heavy mineral sand deposit near the boundary between Dinwiddie and Sussex counties.  Virginia is one of only three U.S. states currently producing titanium minerals.

Selected References: :Pegau, A. A., 1956, Titanium: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Mineral Resources Circular 5, 17 p.

Watson, T. L., and Taber, S., 1913, Geology of the titanium and apatite deposits of Virginia: Virginia Geological Survey Bulletin III-A, 308 p.

Johnson, S. S., 1964, Iron and titanium mineral pigments in Virginia: Virginia Minerals, v. 10, n. 3, p. 1-6.