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Focus areas for data acquisition for potential domestic resources of 11 critical minerals in the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico—Aluminum, cobalt, graphite, lithium, niobium, platinum-group elements, rare earth elements, tantalum, tin,

September 18, 2020

In response to a need for information on potential domestic sources of critical minerals, the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) was established to identify and prioritize areas for acquisition of new geologic mapping, geophysical data, and elevation data to improve our knowledge of the geologic framework of the United States. Phase 1 of Earth MRI concentrated on those geologic terranes favorable for hosting the rare earth elements (REEs). Phase 2 continued to address the REEs and also identified focus areas for potential domestic sources of 10 more of the 35 critical minerals on the U.S. critical minerals list (aluminum, cobalt, graphite, lithium, niobium, platinum-group elements, tantalum, tin, titanium, tungsten). This report describes the methodology, data sources, and summary results for mineral systems that host these 11 critical minerals in the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico; Alaska is covered in a separate report. The mineral systems framework adopted for this study links critical mineral commodities to families of genetically related mineral deposit types. The mineral systems approach is an efficient approach, providing a simultaneous evaluation of geologic terranes through aggregation of genetically related mineral deposit types that are much larger than individual ore deposits. Geologic, geochemical, topographic, and geophysical mapping provided by Earth MRI will document geologic features that reflect the extent of individual mineral systems and provide information about critical mineral deposits that may not have been recognized previously.

Each critical mineral commodity is discussed in terms of importance to the Nation’s economy, modes of occurrence, mineral systems, and deposit types along with maps and tables listing examples of focus areas for each critical mineral. Important mineral systems for these critical minerals include chemical weathering systems for aluminum (bauxite); placer systems for titanium and REEs; metamorphic systems for graphite; mafic magmatic systems for platinum-group elements and cobalt; lacustrine evaporite and porphyry tin systems for lithium; and copper-molybdenum-gold (Cu-Mo-Au) systems for tungsten. REEs occur in many different mineral systems. Focus areas were developed by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with scientists from State geological surveys and other institutions. This first national-scale compilation of focus areas represents an initial step in addressing the Nation’s critical mineral needs by screening areas for acquisition of new data to provide the geologic framework necessary for identifying domestic sources of critical minerals.

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