Geoenvironmental Model Refinement and Advancement

Science Center Objects

The overall objective of our project is to take the abundant geoenvironmental model research that the Mineral Resources Program has supported, and use it to refine the geoenvironmental model concept to make it more useable for our current stakeholders.

Science Issue and Relevance

scientists sampling mineral deposit

Two USGS scientists sampling the unmined, natural Napoleon Ridge porphyry copper-molybdenum deposit along Dump Creek near North Fork, Idaho.

(Public domain.)

Geoenvironmental mineral-deposit models have long been the flagship of environmental research in the Mineral Resources Program (MRP), having been initially defined by Plumlee and Nash (1995, Chapter 1 - USGS OFR-95-831). Over the past twenty years, much progress has been made to advance this effort on a deposit type-by-deposit type basis, focusing on abandoned mine issues, and more recently on future mining issues. The geoenvironmental model concept has received widespread appreciation in the global environmental community.

Methodology to Address Issue

We plan to refine and consolidate geoenvironment models, to permit their advancement. The overall objective of our project is to take the abundant geoenvironmental model research that the Mineral Resources Program has supported, and use it to refine the geoenvironmental model concept to make it more useable for our current stakeholders. We plan to refine the models through integration of existing data, making integrated insights more readily available, with a consistent, base level of information across priority deposit types to enhance the usability of geoenvironmental models.

A limited amount of lab or field studies and networking may be required to fill key data gaps in existing data sets. The prioritization of deposit types will begin with the list of deposit types that form the basis of the recent mineral deposit model efforts.

References

du Bray, E.A., Editor, 1995, Preliminary compilation of descriptive geoenvironmental mineral deposit models: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 95-831, 272 pages.

Red Mountain, Arizona

View of the west side of Red Mountain, Arizona, showing hydrothermally altered volcanic rocks that overlie porphyry copper deposit that lies about 1,000 meters below the top of the mountain.

(Public domain.)

Project Activities

Geoenvironmental model redefinition: We are revisiting and analyzing existing datasets, primarily for massive sulfide deposits, using statistical and mathematical approaches, to improve their predictive capabilities.

Mine waste characterization: We are acquiring mill tailings samples representative of various deposit types for mineralogical and geochemical characterization, analyzing for mineralogy, bulk chemistry, and leachate chemistry. We are starting with critical mineral deposit types — commodities such as rare earths and antimony. Samples that have been acquired include:

  • mine waste from Mountain Pass (rare earths), California (mill tailings, flotation reject material, and bastnasite concentrate);
  • Nechalacho (rare earths), Northwest Territories, Canada (metallurgical testing tailings);
  • Antimony mill tailings (Beaver Brook, Newfoundland, Canada; Pezinok, Slovenia);
  • Duluth Complex copper-nickel-platinum group metal deposit, Minnesota (Mesaba metallurgical testing tailings);
  • Coles Hill uranium, Virginia (metallurgical testing tailings); and
  • carbonate-hosted lead-zinc, high-sulfidation epithermal, and low-sulfidation epithermal tailings (Peru).

Return to Mineral Resources Program | Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center