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Technical Announcement:
Technical Announcement: USGS Awards Mineral Research Grants for 2014

Released: 3/31/2014 9:00:00 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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To initiate new research projects on mineral resources important to the nation's economy, security, and land-use decisions, the U.S. Geological Survey has awarded $208,000 in research grants. 

Recipients of the 2014 USGS Mineral Resources External Research Program grants will study rare earth elements in Colorado; scarce metals in the U.S. and global economies; and nickel, copper and platinum deposits in the Lake Superior region. These and other USGS mineral research projects are intended to provide science that can help the nation to avoid supply disruptions for minerals that are critical for national security and the economy, while reducing the effects of mining and other activities on the environment.  

A Rare Concentration of Rare Earth Elements Near Jamestown, Colorado

Julien Allaz of the University of Colorado, Boulder will investigate an unusual concentration of rare earth elements in veins near Jamestown, Colorado. These veins were first studied more than 70 years ago, but not since.  Allaz will investigate the origin of these veins using state-of-the-art methods.  Rare earth elements are essential for an expanding array of high-technology applications, for many alternative energy technologies and for a number of key defense systems, but they are rarely concentrated into mineable ore deposits. Understanding the origin of these veins will help us to assess where similar concentrations of rare earth elements occur.

Understanding the Life Cycle of Scarce Metals in the U.S. and Global Economies

Thomas Graedel of Yale University will lead a team of researchers to characterize the materials flow of four scarce metals: gallium, germanium, rhenium, and tungsten. While similar studies have been conducted for major metals such as iron and copper, no such study has been done for these scarce metals, which are used to make aircraft engines, medical equipment, fiber optics, solar technology, consumer electronics, and lighting.  This study will help to quantify potential supply strengths and weaknesses, to manage metal use more wisely, and to protect the environment. 

How Did Copper Deposits Form in Sedimentary Rocks in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan

John Ridley of Colorado State University will investigate the nature and extent of fluids that transported and deposited copper in the Nonesuch Formation of northern Wisconsin and Michigan. Though two deposits, Copperwood and White Pine, occur in the Nonesuch, the fluid flow associated with these types of copper deposits is typically much more extensive than the deposits themselves. Copper has long been the key to improved living conditions. Today, nearly every building and house in the U.S. contains copper. It is used in plumbing, electrical wiring, cars, cell phones, and in wind turbines. This research will help evaluate the potential for similar copper deposits in the nation’s mid-continent region.

Determining the Source of Nickel, Copper and Platinum in Deposits of the Lake Superior Region

Edward Ripley and Chusi Li of Indiana University will research the source of nickel, copper and platinum group metals in the Lake Superior region of Minnesota and Michigan. They will apply state-of-the-art copper isotope analysis to determine if the metals originated from igneous rock intrusions in which they are now concentrated or from sedimentary rocks that surround the intrusions.  Platinum group metals are used to reduce motor vehicle emissions and in technology. Nickel is used to produce strong alloys and stainless steel.  This research project will help to assess and explore for deposits in similar geologic environments in the mid-continent region and elsewhere.

The MRERP invited research proposals that addressed the following topics:

  • The Mid-continent Rift of the U.S.—Multidisciplinary studies to image and characterize the mineral resource potential of this significant crustal feature.
  • Alaska as a mineral resource frontier—Core science investigations as a foundation for documenting mineral resource potential
  • Hyperspectral imaging or other geophysical investigations of selected regions of the U.S.—State-of-the-art tools for mineral resource and mineral environmental investigations
  • Materials flow studies—Investigations to address supply chain analysis (including risk analysis) and sustainable mineral supplies
  • Critical Mineral Resources—Research to better understand the genesis and regional controls on the distribution of critical mineral-bearing systems. For the purpose of this solicitation, critical mineral commodities are defined as follows (in alphabetical order): cobalt, gallium, indium, lithium, niobium, platinum group elements, rare earth elements, rhenium, tantalum, and tellurium.

USGS accepted proposals from academia, State agencies, industry, or other private sector organizations and scientists. Visit the USGS Mineral Resources External Research Program for more information.

The USGS Mineral Resources Program delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how minerals interact with the environment.


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