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The critical minerals initiative of the U.S. Geological Survey’s mineral deposit database project: USMIN

February 8, 2021

The objective of the US Geological Survey’s mineral deposit database project (USMIN) is to develop a comprehensive twenty-first century geospatial database that is the authoritative source of the most important mines, mineral deposits, and mineral districts of the US. Since May 2017, the project has focused on critical minerals. Data for critical minerals that are produced as products are relatively robust, whereas data for critical minerals that may be recovered as byproducts are commonly of much poorer quality. Similarly, more is known about critical minerals that occur in conventional deposits than where those critical minerals occur in unconventional deposits. For example, rare earth elements occur principally in deposits hosted by alkaline igneous rocks, but there is potential for their production from phosphate rock mining, which is less documented. Lithium (Li) has been recovered from pegmatites and brines, but other Li-bearing deposit types have been delineated that may go into production. Cobalt may be produced as a byproduct or coproduct from a wide range of mineral deposit types, whereas rhenium is a byproduct of copper ore. Significant opportunities for research exist that could help identify new sources of critical minerals, and may also help increase production and recovery from existing sources.