The motivations for starting Earth MRI and the potential returns on investment follow:
The United States is 100-percent dependent on imports for 21 critical mineral commodities and is at least 50-percent dependent on imports for another 28 critical mineral commodi- ties (Lederer and McCullough, 2018).
Undiscovered deposits of at least some of these critical and strategic miner- als almost certainly exist in the United States, but mineral exploration by the private sector is hampered by the lack of modern geological, geophysical, and topographic data. In contrast, govern- ments of other countries provide such datasets to the private sector.
Studies in Australia and Canada have reported that investments by their federal governments in these basic geologic and geophysical datasets can be expected to lead to investments five times as large by the private sector (Duke, 2010; ACIL Allen Consulting, 2015).
Studies sponsored by Earth MRI will aim to identify areas with potential for undiscovered critical mineral deposits that could reduce U.S. mineral import dependence, thereby strengthening national security, creating jobs within the private sector, and generating ancil- lary economic and social benefits.
Information acquired through this ini- tiative could also advance our under- standing of other economically valu- able mineral resources (such as copper, zinc, gold, and industrial minerals), energy and groundwater resources, and geologic hazards (fig. 1). It could help address other pressing societal issues in need of detailed geoscience information, such as identifying earth resources needed for revitalizing the Nation’s roads, bridges, and other infrastructure systems.