Earth MRI Funds Critical Minerals Projects in Illinois

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A total of $106,978 will fund new research and preserve important data across the Land of Lincoln

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Association of American State Geologists are pleased to announce $106,978 in funding for critical minerals projects in Illinois. These funds are for fiscal year 2020 under the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI.

These funds include grants to the Illinois State Geological Survey for geochemical analyses for regions all over the Illinois and adjoining states. In addition, the USGS will fly an airborne geophysics survey over southern Illinois.

“These new projects in Illinois 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 was 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 Illinois State Geological Survey will participate in two geochemistry reconnaissance surveys. The first survey will focus on underclay deposits in the Illinois Basin that have the potential for lithium and rare earth elements. The second survey will look at the rare earth element potential of phosphate rocks also in the Illinois Basin. The two surveys will be done in cooperation with the Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia geological surveys.

The geochemistry reconnaissance surveys will provide information on mineral commodities in several formations that span multiple states. These projects will help geologists better define the poorly understood distribution of critical minerals in unconventional geologic settings across the eastern and central parts of the United States.

The USGS will conduct an airborne geophysical survey over a region that covers parts of eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and western Kentucky. The survey will focus on critical mineral commodities like barium, beryllium, cobalt, fluorine, germanium, niobium, rare earth elements and titanium.

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.d