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The US Geological Survey’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI)—Providing framework geologic, geophysical, and elevation data to the nation’s critical mineral-bearing regions

December 31, 2019

New detailed mapping of the geologic resources of the Nation has the potential to significantly close the gap in the essential data needed to fuel a modern era of economic development and technological innovation, while at the same time dramatically enhancing our understanding of the fundamental way geology impacts everyday life, from the domestic critical mineral resources that are necessary for modern technology and the economy, to domestic energy and water resources, geologic hazards, agriculture, and other pressing needs. The U.S. Geological Survey established the Earth Resources Mapping Initiative (Earth MRI) to address the shortfall in geologic, geophysical, and elevation data with sufficient detail to support evaluation of regions in the United States that have potential to host critical mineral resources. The new effort is a collaboration with the Association of American State Geologists, who are providing new detailed geologic maps and making available online archived data and information related to critical mineral resources. The geophysical and lidar surveys are being contracted through industry specialists to assure that high-quality data are available to the public. This article provides an overview of the Earth MRI effort with discussions on the initial geophysical surveys funded for areas that have known potential for rare earth element resources. Subsequent projects are being designed to address areas that may host other critical mineral resources.