Physical and Environmental Assessment of Sand Resources - Texas Continental Shelf

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A recent inventory of nonfuel minerals in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico demonstrated that potentially economic deposits of sand, gravel, and heavy minerals occur on the Texas continental shelf. Particularly promising for leasing and commercialization in the near term are deposits of sand that form shoals on the inner continental shelf. Preliminary analyses indicate that these sand deposits are suitable for beach replenishment because sediment textures of the shoals are generally compatible with those of native beach sand. Offshore sand extraction may become attractive economically if onshore sources of beach-quality sand are volumetrically limited. Offshore mining of sand could also reduce the degradation of wetlands caused by onshore mining activities.

Demand for beach replenishment sand along the northwestern Gulf of Mexico is increasing as the combined effects of rising sea level and land subsidence are manifested as rapid beach erosion. In Texas, Sabine and Heald Banks are two offshore sand deposits that have the greatest economic potential for near-term exploitation because they are (1) suitable for beach replenishment, (2) the largest sand deposits located offshore of some of the most rapidly eroding developed shores, (3) relatively close to potential markets in both southeastern Texas and western Louisiana, and (4) relatively close to major ports that can support offshore mining activities.


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