Three Reasons to Care That Oklahoma is No. 1 in Gypsum: Twinkies, Beer, Roads

  • Logan Layden
Gypsum embedded in the landscape at Gloss Mountain State Park in Major County.

Chip Smith / Flickr

Gypsum embedded in the landscape at Gloss Mountain State Park in Major County.

Here’s what seems like a mundane factoid about the Sooner State: Oklahoma leads the nation in gypsum mining.

Mildly interesting, right? Actually, it’s fascinating, as The Oklahoman‘s Mike Coppock explains:

The next time you bite down on a Twinkie, know there is a good chance part of it was mined out of a mesa south of Little Sahara State Park.

The same goes for the beer you may order at Bricktown or the loaf of bread you buy at the grocery store.

Oklahoma not only leads the nation in gypsum mining, but gypsum in Oklahoma is so pure that it is used as a calcium additive for foods we take for granted and in common medications.

Jim Hill, a representative for Harrison Gypsum, told the paper the company’s mine near Bouse Junction — east of Woodward — produces gypsum that’s 90 percent pure and food-grade, but that most of the gypsum goes to support the energy industry:

Gypsum is used by the oil and gas industry as a road pavement so dirt roads won’t break down as heavy equipment goes over them.

It is used at oil platforms as a ground covering before the structure is set up

“Our mining operations pretty much follows the rig count,” Hill says.

So as the energy industry has boomed in Oklahoma, so has gypsum mining, though much is still used for “wallboard products.”

The paper reports “more than 5 million tons of gypsum is mined in Oklahoma annually involving 22 companies strung out across seven western counties” and that Major County produces the most.

Although the state sees tons of gypsum taken out of the ground each year and local residents find entire mesas shaved down, [the Oklahoma Geological Survey’s Stan Krukowski] says there is no concern that Oklahoma is running out of gypsum.