Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

RESTON, Va. — The USGS will invest more than $5 million to map both critical minerals and mineral resources important to hurricane resiliency in Alabama and Florida in partnership with the Geological Survey of Alabama and the Florida Geological Survey.  

In order to rebuild infrastructure after hurricane damage or to reinforce existing structures to withstand hurricanes, rock and mineral resources like quartz sand and gravel, and limestone used to make cement are essential. The USGS and Florida Geological Survey will work together to identify potential sources of these materials.

Airborne geophysical data will be collected over a broad area from southeast of Birmingham, Alabama, to the Florida Gulf Coast, parts of northeastern Florida, and parts of central Florida. This is the first time in more than 40 years that airborne geophysical data will be collected over these areas and the first time ever that a high-resolution geophysical survey will be flown in the region. 

Image shows a map of Alabama, Florida and Georgia with the survey areas marked with colored polygons
The airborne geophysical survey and hyperspectral survey areas that will be flown for this Earth MRI project.

“These airborne surveys will provide much-needed data about geology just beneath the vegetation and up to several miles deep.” said Anji Shah, USGS lead scientist for the effort. “There are numerous potential applications: evaluating mineral resource potential, constraining groundwater models, imaging buried faults that could cause an earthquake, and mapping natural radioactivity.” 

“This survey will provide us with important geophysical data that will be used in conjunction with detailed geological mapping to enhance our understanding of critical minerals and other resources in Alabama and the southeastern region of the U.S.,” said Nick Tew, Alabama’s State Geologist and Director of the Geological Survey of Alabama. “This airborne geophysical survey will allow us to better understand the rocks exposed at the Earth’s surface, as well as provide us with essential subsurface data. We have a long history of partnerships with the USGS, and this is a great example of leveraging federal and state resources to address important societal needs.”

“The Florida Geological Survey is ready to work with our colleagues at the US Geological Survey to collect geologic data that will be used to locate critical mineral resources, characterize mine waste, and define areas containing industrial minerals necessary to make our state more resilient,” said Guy “Harley” Means, P.G., Florida’s State Geologist and Director of the Florida Geological Survey.

The funding comes in part from an investment by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), which provides $320 million over 5 years through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the Nation’s supply chains, economy and national defense. The work will modernize our understanding of the Nation’s fundamental geologic framework and improve knowledge of domestic critical mineral resources, a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that power everything from household appliances and electronics to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines. 

The airborne surveys will include the collection of magnetic, radiometric and hyperspectral data. These different methods can be used to map rocks at the surface beneath trees and vegetation, and in some cases, several miles underground.

Magnetic data, which image the deepest rocks, can be used to identify ancient magma bodies, buried faults, and other geologic features. Radiometric data indicate relative amounts of potassium, uranium, and thorium in shallow rocks and soil and can be used to characterize shallow sediments as well as mine waste.

Hyperspectral data focuses on the surface and can be used to detect specific minerals depending on the wavelengths of the two sensors which will be flown, including industrial and construction minerals like quartz sand and gravel and carbonate minerals for cement, as well as critical minerals like chromium, graphite and rare earth elements. Scientists use such information to help characterize areas hosting mineral deposits and mine waste, as well as for other uses such as geologic hazards, groundwater studies or energy resources.

The critical mineral commodities that are included in the research projects in Alabama and Florida are: 

  • Aluminum, used in almost all sectors of the economy 

  • Antimony, used in rechargeable lead-acid batteries and flame retardants 

  • Arsenic, used in semi-conductors 

  • Beryllium, used as an alloying agent in aerospace and defense industries 

  • Bismuth, used in medical and atomic research 

  • Cesium, used in research and development 

  • Chromium, used primarily in stainless steel and other alloys 

  • Cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys 

  • Gallium, used for integrated circuits and optical devices like LEDs 

  • Graphite, used for lubricants, batteries, and fuel cells 

  • Hafnium, used for nuclear control rods, alloys, and high-temperature ceramics 

  • Lithium, used for rechargeable batteries 

  • Magnesium, used as an alloy and for reducing metals 

  • Manganese, used in steelmaking and batteries 

  • Nickel, used to make stainless steel, superalloys, and rechargeable batteries 

  • Niobium, used mostly in steel and superalloys 

  • Rare earth elements group, primarily used in magnets and catalysts 

  • Rubidium, used for research and development in electronics 

  • Scandium, used for alloys, ceramics, and fuel cells 

  • Tantalum, used in electronic components, mostly capacitors and in superalloys 

  • Tellurium, used in solar cells, thermoelectric devices, and as alloying additive 

  • Tin, used as protective coatings and alloys for steel 

  • Titanium, used as a white pigment or metal alloys 

  • Yttrium, used for ceramic, catalysts, lasers, metallurgy, and phosphors 

  • Zinc, primarily used in metallurgy to produce galvanized steel 

  • Zirconium, used in the high-temperature ceramics and corrosion-resistant alloys 

In addition to the critical mineral commodities, other minerals of interest include: 

Additional funding for this work was appropriated in the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental with the goal of characterizing geology and identifying mineral resources that could be used to repair, reinforce and construct new infrastructure to enhance resiliency against damage from hurricanes and other coastal storms. 

More information can be found here. To learn more about how the USGS is investing the resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, visit our website. To learn more about USGS mineral-resource and commodity information, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter

Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.