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Learn what the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) is, why it's needed, and implementation plans.

What is the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI)?

A partnership between the USGS, State Geological Surveys, and industry to acquire new geologic maps, geophysical surveys, and LiDAR data to better understand the fundamental geologic framework of areas across the Nation with potential for hosting critical mineral resources.

Why is Earth MRI needed?

  • Under Executive Order 13817: Of 35 minerals deemed critical (Federal Register, May 18, 2018), the U.S. is 100% reliant on foreign sources for 14 and at least 50% reliant on foreign sources for another 16.

  • Critical Resource Deposits in the U.S.: Undiscovered deposits of at least some of these critical and strategic minerals almost certainly exist in the U.S., but mineral exploration by the private sector is hampered by the lack of modern geological, geophysical, and topographic data.

  • Government Provided Basic Geoscience Data: Studies in Australia and Canada have reported that investments in basic geoscience datasets can be expected to lead to increased investments by the private sector (ACIL Allen Consulting, 2015; Duke, J.M., 2010).

  • Identify Potential Areas for Critical Mineral Deposits: Earth MRI sponsored studies aim to identify areas with potential for critical mineral deposits - potentially reducing U.S. mineral import dependence.

  • Data to Support Other Geoscience Information Needs: Information acquired can advance understanding of other mineral resources, energy and groundwater resources, and geologic hazards.

View Executive Order 13817 | View Final List of Critical Minerals 2018

What are the implementation plans for Earth MRI?

Earth MRI data and applications graphic
Figure 1 from USGS Fact Sheet 2019-3007 The Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI): Mapping the Nation’s Critical Mineral Resources.

Under Interior Secretarial Order 3359: Earth MRI data acquisition will target mineral-rich regions, and will also have broad application to energy, groundwater, natural hazards, and other vital geoscience issues.

View Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3359

The USGS Mineral Resources Program will manage EarthMRI. Initially, the Earth MRI will focus on preserving and making available to the public geologic information currently held by the State geological surveys relevant to mineral deposits that host critical minerals. New data acquisition will concentrate on regions that have potential for hosting mineral deposit types that contain rare earth elements (REEs) as co- and by-products. Funding will be provided to State surveys for new geologic mapping and for data preservation through the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, National Geospatial Program,  and National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program, respectively.

FY19 Budget: $9.598M

FY19 Activities: Of the 35 critical minerals, first focus new data collection on areas potentially containing rare earth element deposits.

  • 5 major geophysical surveys under contract

  • 14 States funded for geologic mapping

  • LiDAR acquisition will accompany mapping

In FY20 and Beyond: target new priority critical mineral resources and identify new focus areas for integrated studies.


ACIL Allen Consulting, 2015, Exploration incentive scheme economic impact study: Perth, Western Australia, Geological Survey of Western Australia, 78 p., accessed February 6, 2019, [pdf, 4.71 MB]

Duke, J.M., 2010, Government geoscience to support mineral exploration—Public policy rationale and impact (prepared for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada): National Geological Surveys Committee, 64 p., accessed February 8, 2019, at [pdf, 921 KB]