Earth MRI Funds Critical Minerals Projects in Alaska

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A total of $634,000 will fund new research and preserve important data across the Last Frontier.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Association of American State Geologists are pleased to announce $634,000 in funding for new geologic mapping and $500,000 for new geophysical surveys focused on critical minerals projects in Alaska. These funds are for the fiscal year 2020 under the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI.

These funds include grants to the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys for geologic mapping and geochemical analyses for an area of the Western Tanacross region near the Canadian border. In addition, the USGS funding will fund new airborne geophysics surveys in the Yukon-Tanana uplands.

“These new projects in Alaska represent the next step in our ambitious effort to improve our knowledge of the geologic framework in the United States and to identify areas that may have the potential to contain undiscovered critical mineral resources,” said Jim Reilly, director of the USGS. “The identification and prioritization of prospective areas were done through our strong partnership with the state geological surveys in a series of workshops in Fall 2019.”

“This program will revitalize and update the science and geologic research and data compilation that is needed in many states for the United States to identify new geologic associations,” said John Yellich, director of the Michigan Geological Survey and president of AASG.

“The Earth MRI effort is an outgrowth of the strong partnership between the AASG members and the USGS,” said Warren Day, Earth MRI lead scientist for the USGS. “The USGS is grateful for the scientific input and support from the state geological surveys, resulting in a robust body of information useful for many applications beyond mineral resources.”

The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys will focus on geologic mapping for critical mineral commodities like arsenic, bismuth, cobalt, indium, the platinum group elements, rare earth elements, tantalum, tellurium, tin and tungsten.

The geologic mapping efforts, which are managed through the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, will refine our scientific understanding of the geologic framework of areas of interest. In addition to helping identify mineral potential, these maps also support decisions about use of land, water, energy and minerals and help to mitigate the impact of geologic hazards on communities.

In addition, the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys and USGS will conduct airborne geophysics surveys of the Yukon-Tanana Uplands with a focus on tin and tungsten.

Airborne geophysical surveys collect a combination of magnetic and radiometric data. Magnetic data can tell us the amount of magnetic minerals, primarily magnetite, in the exposed and deeply buried rocks; whereas the radiometric data indicates the relative amounts of potassium, uranium and thorium in the exposed rocks. This information allows scientists to help identify likely locations of particular rocks that can host minerals of interest, geothermal energy resources, groundwater and potential earthquake hazards in the region.

In 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13817, a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals. This executive order called on agencies across the federal government to develop a strategy to reduce the nation’s susceptibility to critical mineral supply disruptions.

In May of 2018, DOI released a list of 35 minerals deemed critical to the U.S. economy and security, based on a methodology by the USGS. This list forms the foundation of the full federal strategy.

More information on USGS research to address the federal strategy on critical minerals can be found here.

Earth MRI is a partnership between the USGS, state geological surveys and industry to acquire new geologic maps, geophysical surveys and lidar data to better understand the fundamental geologic framework of areas across the nation with potential for hosting critical mineral resources.

More information can be found here.

To learn more about USGS mineral resource and commodity information, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter