United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1991 HQ Rulings > HQ 0086429 - HQ 0086997 > HQ 0086894

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 086894

November 23, 1990

CLA-2:CO:R:C:G 086894 SR


TARIFF NO.: 6802.99

Mr. Joseph S. Kaplan
Ross & Hardies
529 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017-4608

RE: Basalt; Prairie Green Granite, Cambrian Black Granite

Dear Mr. Kaplan:

This is in response to your letter dated February 27, 1990, requesting the tariff classification of "Prairie Green Granite" and "Cambrian Black Granite" tiles under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


The merchandise at issue is "Prairie Green Granite" and "Cambrian Black Granite" tiles. A Customs Laboratory tested samples of both these tiles and determined that the Prairie Green stone is within the scientific classification for diorite and the Cambrian Black is geologically composed of basalt. Diorite and basalt have a different geological make up than granite. Basalt is an extrusive igneous rock that is made up of lava. The rock is mainly pyroxene and a plagioclase feldspar. It is about half feldspar and half ferro-magnesian minerals. Diorite is an igneous rock with medium or coarse grains and even texture. It consists chiefly of hornblende or pyroxene and a smaller
quantity of feldspar. Granite is an intrusive rock that is formed mainly of potash, feldspar and quartz. Quartz is notably absent from diorite.


Whether basalt and diorite are classifiable under subheading 6802.93, HTSUSA, as granite, or under subheading 6802.99, HTSUSA, as other stone.


The HTSUSA became effective on January 1, 1989. Under this new tariff schedule some articles of merchandise may be classified differently than they were under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), and therefore, subject to a different rate of duty.

Under the TSUS, stones were often classified by their trade names whether or not they met the geological definition of the stone. However, under the newly-enacted HTSUSA, whose basic provisions are common to the tariffs of all of the nations using the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, it is imperative that the United States, whenever possible, define the various tariff terms in a manner consistent with all nations utilizing the HTSUSA. It is for this reason that we have settled upon the commonly-accepted geological definition of various stones to determine the proper classification under the HTSUSA.

The importer states that there is a presumption that tariff terms are to be construed in accordance with their common meaning. He quoted several court cases as stating that "tariff terms are not to be construed according to their scientific meaning, where that meaning differs from the common or commercial meaning, in the absence of a contrary legislative intent." Hartmann Trunk Co. v. United States, 27 CCPA 254, C.A.D. 95 (1940); Hummel Chemical Co. v. United States, 29 CCPA 178, C.A.D. 189 (1941); United States v. Sandoz Chemical Works, Inc., 46 CCPA 115, C.A.D. 711 (1959); G.A.F. Corp. v. United States, 67 Cust. Ct. 167, C.D. 4269 (1971); C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 33 Cust. Ct. 181, C.D. 165 (1954). This is true; however, it is clear that stones are intended to be classified according
to their geological composition. This is evident by how stones are provided for in the tariff provisions and the Explanatory Notes.

The Explanatory Notes constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. The definitions of various stones are provided in the chapter 25 Explanatory Notes. The Explanatory Notes to heading 2516, HTSUSA, read as follows:

Granite is a very hard, granular igneous rock formed by the agglomeration of quartz crystals with felspar and mica. It varies in colour (grey, green, pink, red, etc,) according to the relative proportions of these three substances and the presence of iron oxide or manganese oxide.

Porphyry is a finely grained, slightly translucent variety of granite.

Sandstone is a rock of sedimentary origin composed of small quartzose or siliceous particles naturally agglomerated by calcareous or siliceous materials.

Basalt is also an igneous rock, blackish, very compact and extremely hard.

The heading also includes other hard igneous rocks (e.g. syenite, gneiss, trachyte, lava, diabase, diorite, phonolite), as well as calcareous monumental or building stone not falling in heading 25.15 (including building limestone or Portland stone) and serpentine marble (or ophite) which, being a natural form of magnesium silicate, cannot be classified in heading 25.15.

Ecaussine, sometimes known as "petit granit", "Belgian granite" or "Flanders granite", falls in heading 25.15.

If basalt was intended to be considered the same stone as granite then it would not be mentioned and defined separately from granite. The definition of basalt does not mention that it is a type of granite as does the definition of porphyry. As for diorite, the Explanatory Notes to this heading specifically list diorite as an other hard igneous rock. It cannot be classified under the provision for granite when it is called granite by the trade and as other stone when it is not; it must all be classified as other stone.

The stone ecaussine, which is stated in the Explanatory Notes as having a trade name of granite, is specifically mentioned as classifiable under a different heading. The Notes also state that serpentine marble is not classifiable under the provision for marble because it is a natural form of magnesium silicate. It is for these reasons that Customs has determined that basalt and diorite are not classified as granite but are classifiable according to their geological definition.

Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 085266, dated September 20, 1989, determined that the geological definition is to be used in determining the tariff classification of stone.


The stones at issue are classifiable according to their geological composition rather than by their trade name. Basalt and diorite are classifiable under subheading 6802.99, HTSUSA, which provides for worked monumental or building stone, and articles thereof, other, other stone. The rate of duty is 6.5 percent under the General Duty Rate column.


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling