Earth MRI Funds Critical Minerals Projects in West Virginia

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A total of $125,000 will fund new research and preserve important data across the Mountain State

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Association of American State Geologists are pleased to announce $125,000 in funding for critical minerals projects in West Virginia. These funds are for fiscal year 2020 under the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI.

Map of Earth MRI projects in West Virginia

USGS map of Earth MRI projects in West Virginia announced in September 2020.

(Public domain.)

These funds include grants to the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey to conduct a geochemical survey in the Appalachian Mountains. The surveys will be companion efforts with the Kentucky Geological Survey and will be done in cooperation with the Illinois State, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Pennsylvania geological surveys.

“This new project in West Virginia represents 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 geochemical survey will focus on clays associated with Appalachian coal beds that have the potential for lithium and rare earth elements, as well as other critical mineral commodities like gallium and indium.

The geochemistry reconnaissance survey 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.

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.