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Tungsten skarn mineral resource assessment of the Great Basin region of western Nevada and eastern California

December 17, 2020

A new quantitative mineral resource assessment for tungsten, a critical mineral commodity with highly concentrated production and a moderate risk of global supply disruption, was conducted for the Great Basin region of western Nevada and eastern California. This assessment was part of a larger effort focusing on three regions in the United States and represents the first study of domestic tungsten resources and mineral potential in over twenty years. By integrating geology, bedrock and stream sediment geochemistry, geophysics, and remote sensing data with recently developed software tools and analyses, estimates of undiscovered tungsten skarn deposits in permissive tracts are combined with grade and tonnage distributions of known deposits to generate probabilistic estimates of undiscovered resources. Identified resources in the Great Basin region total 168 thousand metric tons (kt) of tungsten trioxide (WO3), including 116 kt of past production and 52 kt remaining in place. Consistent with the historic significance of the Great Basin region as a past producer containing a large portion of U.S. identified resources, undiscovered resources are likely to occur adjacent to known deposits and prospects and at unexplored depths. Undiscovered deposits are estimated to contain median resources of 940 kt of WO3 with a 90% probability of at least 420 kt and a 10% probability of at least 1.7 million metric tons (Mt), of which 240 kt to 1.1 Mt may be economic to extract. Based on a 20-year average price, median recoverable undiscovered resources are estimated at 570 kt WO3 equivalent with a net present value of $3 billion U.S. dollars. The methods, data, results, and economic significance of the assessment contribute to a scientific understanding of a critical mineral resource with direct implications for policy and land management decisions.

Publication Year 2021
Title Tungsten skarn mineral resource assessment of the Great Basin region of western Nevada and eastern California
DOI 10.1016/j.gexplo.2020.106712
Authors Graham W. Lederer, Federico Solano, Joshua Aaron Coyan, Kevin Denton, Kathryn E. Watts, Celestine N. Mercer, Damon Bickerstaff, Matthew Granitto
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Index ID 70217104
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center