Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

RESTON, Va. — The U.S. Geological Survey will invest more than $3.5 million to map critical mineral resources in partnership with the geological surveys of Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

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 mineral resources both in the ground and in mine waste, 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.

Image shows a map of the central United States with the survey area marked with blue fill in
The survey area for the Kentucky-Tennessee Anomaly Earth MRI Survey.

The effort announced today will continue a multi-year campaign to collect modern airborne magnetic and radiometric data to map the geology of the region. This survey will cover the western side of a magnetic anomaly that extends across both Kentucky and Tennessee, first identified by satellite in the 1980s and which has numerous mineral resource deposits around its edges. In addition, the USGS expects the survey to advance geologic hazards research, in part by shedding light on potential earthquake hazards in parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri by imaging deeply buried faults that could be related to the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones.

“This survey represents the largest modern geophysical survey collected by the USGS to date and will replace antiquated airborne geophysical data collected mostly in the 1980’s,” said Anne McCafferty, USGS Lead Scientist on the project. “Because of the size and scale of the survey and its adjacency to other similar surveys, we expect to image major tectonic features and their controls on the lateral and depth extent of potential critical mineral deposits.”

"Critical minerals are the building blocks for many modern technologies and clean energy. The Kentucky Geological Survey appreciates the USGS's commitment and leadership with this foundational geophysical project,” said Dr. William Andrews, Acting Director of the Kentucky Geological Survey. “The resulting data will be essential not only for our national-priority critical minerals research in Kentucky, but it will also support ongoing research projects on topics as diverse as radon hazards and deep subsurface geologic features."

“The recent results of the Earth MRI airborne geophysical program have raised our expectation that the proposed survey will provide a wealth of enlightening data that will test current hypotheses and lead to new interpretations about the geologic setting and history in the region,” said Dr. Peter J. Lemiszki, Lead Geologist with the Tennessee Geological Survey for the project. “The information will promote the best use of the Tennessee Geological Survey’s limited resources by helping us to target detailed geologic mapping, shallow and deep drilling, and geochemical sampling for years to come.”

The critical mineral commodities that are the focus of these surveys are:

  • Barite, used in hydrocarbon production.
  • Cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys
  • Fluorspar, used in the manufacture of aluminum, cement, steel, gasoline, and fluorine chemicals
  • Gallium, used for integrated circuits and optical devices like LEDs
  • Germanium, used for fiber optics and night vision applications
  • Rare earth elements group, primarily used in magnets and catalysts
  • Zinc, primarily used in metallurgy to produce galvanized steel
Image shows a small, twin-engine aircraft with labels for the scientific equipment on it
An example aircraft equipped for an airborne geophysical survey. The magnetic sensor (magnetometer) is located at the tip of the "stinger" attached to the rear of the airplane. The survey is designed to measure the magnetic field of the earth, which is related to rock formations that lie below the land surface. Base photo courtesy of EON Geoscience.

The airborne surveys will include the collection of magnetic and radiometric 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 faults, magma bodies and other geologic features, while radiometric data indicate relative amounts of potassium, uranium and thorium in shallow rocks and soil and can also be used to characterize mine waste.

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.