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March 10, 2022

For our Winter 2022 newsletter, here are a few highlights from the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s recent activities and publications. 

Photo Contest Winner | March 2020 | Honorable Mention 1-Critical mineral - tungsten

In February 2022, the USGS released a new list of 50 mineral commodities critical to the U.S. economy and national security after an extensive multi-agency assessment and public comment period. The 2022 list of critical minerals was determined using the most up-to-date scientific methods to evaluate mineral criticality. The new list contains 15 more commodities compared to the nation’s first list of critical minerals created in 2018. Much of the increase in the new list is the result of splitting the rare earth elements and platinum group elements into individual entries rather than including them as “mineral groups.” In addition, the 2022 list of critical minerals adds nickel and zinc to the list while removing helium, potash, rhenium and strontium.

Close up of Alumina-Zirconia
Mineral: Alumina-Zirconia Abrasive, which is primarily used in metal casting and the foundry process

Also in February 2022, the USGS National Minerals Information Center put out its 2022 edition of the Mineral Commodity Summaries, a long-running publication that provides a comprehensive source of mineral production data for the world and includes information on the domestic industry structure, government programs, tariffs and five-year salient statistics on more than 88 mineral commodities that are important to the U.S. economy and national security.

A USGS scientist is collecting structural measurements from a bedrock outcrop in the West Crazy Mountains in eastern interior Alaska. Fireweed is in bloom along the slopes.
A USGS scientist is conducting geologic mapping and collecting structural measurements from a bedrock outcrop in the West Crazy Mountains in eastern interior Alaska. 

The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes historic investments in the USGS’ efforts to provide vital science to address critical minerals, energy and supply chain issues. The USGS has received about $511 million in direct funding to invest in boosting the nation’s understanding of its energy and critical mineral resources, training and retaining the next generation of natural resource scientists and preserving the nation’s irreplaceable geologic knowledge. The first investment is $167 million in funding to replace deteriorating laboratories used by scientists at the USGS working on critical energy and mineral programs. The new state-of-the-art research and teaching facility, to be built on the Colorado School of Mines campus, will allow USGS energy and minerals researchers to work alongside the university’s geoscience and energy professors. 

Cessna 180 Fixed-wing Aircraft
Cessna 180 fixed-wing aircraft used to conduct low-level flights. 

In October 2021, the USGS and Rio Tinto, a leading mining and metals company, announced a partnership that will provide a clearer picture of the potential for critical mineral resources beneath the Continental Divide near Montana’s Boulder Batholith. The USGS will fly airborne geophysical surveys in areas of interest with support from Rio Tinto during 2022 as part of its Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI). This is the first time the USGS has partnered with a resources company for the Earth MRI program, allowing it to double the area being surveyed in Southwest Montana.

Image shows a map and key of the United States with mineral locations marked with colored shapes
Known Mineral Locations in the United States.

In June 2021, Geoscience Australia, the Geological Survey of Canada, and the U.S. Geological Survey released a new online portal and the world’s largest database of critical mineral concentrations in and around mineral deposits. The web portal is one of the first achievements of the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative, a partnership among Geoscience Australia, the Geological Survey of Canada, and the USGS. The goal of the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative is to build a diversified supply of critical minerals in all three countries and establish a foundational understanding of each country’s geologic framework.

Image shows a map of the United States, with Alaska and Hawaii shown alongside, with major graphite deposits shown in circles
Graphite locations in USMIN. This data release contains sites with more than 1,000 metric tons of contained graphite resource and/or past graphite production. This is approximately 3% of the average annual U.S. consumption of graphite between 2016 and 2020. 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has updated the U.S. Mineral Deposit Database (USMIN) to include 10 sites with historical graphite production or undeveloped graphite resources. These sites are in Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. 

Recent Publications 

More USGS Mineral Resources Program Publications can be found here

Recent Data Releases 

More USGS Mineral Resources Program Data Releases can be found here

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