Bipartisan Infrastructure Law helps fund largest ever US critical minerals study of its kind in Arkansas, Missouri
Reston, Va. — The U.S. Geological Survey announced today that, thanks to a substantial investment from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Arkansas and Missouri will receive more than $2.75 million to collect the largest continuous swath of geophysical data in the United States focused on critical mineral resources.
The study will be funded and conducted through the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), a partnership between the USGS and state geological surveys to modernize our understanding of the nation’s fundamental geologic framework and mineral resources through new geologic maps, geophysical and topographic surveys, and geochemical sampling.
With over $320 million in total funding for critical minerals mapping, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding has accelerated this mapping in areas with potential for hosting critical mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine wastes. Overall, these investments will help improve our understanding of domestic critical mineral resources, a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that are essential to everything from household appliances and electronics to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines.
“This project shows just what the USGS and the state geological surveys can accomplish when we pool our resources,” said Warren Day, Earth MRI lead scientist for the USGS. “The new data will create a foundation for better understanding of mineral and geothermal resources, earthquake hazard potential, carbon storage capacity and many other geoscience opportunities.”
“This investment by the USGS is exciting news for Arkansas and speaks to the ongoing cooperative effort between the USGS and the Arkansas Geological Survey,” said Scott Ausbrooks, Arkansas State Geologist and director of the Arkansas Geological Survey. “Not only will this new data assist us in our overall understanding of the state’s underlying geologic framework, but they will also provide us with the information needed to evaluate critical minerals in Arkansas and the potential economic benefits.”
“This project extends previous magnetic and radiometric surveys conducted in the southern midcontinent. It will also fill in large gaps between the important mineral-producing regions of southeast Missouri and north central Arkansas,” said Joe Gillman, Missouri State Geologist and director of the Missouri Geological Survey. “Earth MRI is an outstanding example of the cooperative effort between the USGS and the state geological surveys to improve our knowledge of the geologic framework of the United States and address important societal needs such as mineral supply and public safety.”
Previous Earth MRI projects in Arkansas and southern Missouri have identified the potential for 18 critical mineral commodities within the borders of the airborne surveys. Some of these commodities are being actively mined or are by-products found in mine waste, while others have a history of production or have been identified via exploration and research.
Airborne geophysical surveys flown for Earth MRI collect a combination of magnetic and radiometric data. Magnetic data identify the amount of magnetic minerals, primarily magnetite, in exposed and deeply buried rocks, whereas the radiometric data indicate the relative amounts of potassium, uranium and thorium in exposed rocks and soil. Scientists use this information to help identify where mineral deposits might be located. In addition, geophysical data can help identify potential geothermal and other energy resources, groundwater resources and potential earthquake hazards in the region.
The survey will look at the following critical mineral commodities in Arkansas and southern Missouri:
- Aluminum: used in almost all sectors of the economy
- Antimony: used in lead-acid batteries and flame retardants
- Barite: used in hydrocarbon production
- Beryllium: used as an alloying agent in aerospace and defense industries
- 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
- Ilmenite: source of titanium used for pigments and high-performance alloys
- Indium: used in liquid crystal display screens
- Lithium: used for rechargeable batteries
- Molybdenum: used as alloy for high-strength steel
- Manganese: used in steelmaking and batteries
- Nickel: used for special alloys, stainless steel, and high-temperature applications
- Rare Earth Elements: primarily used in batteries and electronics
- Titanium: used as a white pigment and in metal alloys
- Vanadium: primarily used as alloying agent for iron and steel
- Zinc: primarily used in metallurgy to produce galvanized steel