Freshwater diatomite deposits in the Western United States are found in lake beds that formed millions of years ago. These diatom-rich sediments are among the Nation’s largest commercial diatomite deposits. Each deposit contains billions of tiny diatom skeletons, which are widely used for filtration, absorption, and abrasives. New studies by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are revealing how ancient lakes in the Western States produced such large numbers of diatoms. These findings can be used by both land-use managers and mining companies to better evaluate diatomite resources in the region.
Locations of diatomite deposits and Miocene and Pliocene sedimentary rocks in the Western United States. These deposits and sedimentary rocks formed in a variety of geologic environments during the past 20 million years. Most formed in lakes, but some sedimentary rocks and diatomite deposits along coastal southwestern California are related to shallow-marine environments.
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