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Bismuth. Image in Public Domain. Photographer: Scott Horvath, Bureau Social Media Lead, USGS.

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The U.S. Geological Survey Invests Millions to Map Critical-Mineral Resources in Alaska

The U.S. Geological Survey will invest more than $5.8 million to map critical-mineral resources in Alaska in partnership with the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

This partnership is a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that are essential to everything from household appliances and electronics to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines.

“I’m pleased to announce more investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve mapping of Alaska’s geology and critical mineral resources,” said Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “From the Yukon-Tanana region in the East to the Kuskokwim River in the West, we are working with the entire state of Alaska to assess domestic resource potential and secure a reliable and sustainable supply of critical minerals. I am especially pleased that these same data will help provide a better understanding of geothermal resources, water resources and natural hazards.”

The funding comes largely from a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investment in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), which provides more than $74 million in new mapping funding each year to modernize our understanding of the Nation’s fundamental geologic framework and improve knowledge of domestic critical-mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine waste. Overall, this act invests $510.7 million through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the nation’s supply chains, national defense and economy.

The Earth MRI investments will enable airborne geophysical surveys of the poorly mapped Kuskokwim River region of western Alaska. This region was chosen by the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys and the USGS for its critical-mineral potential, including commodities like antimony, cobalt, gold, rare earth elements, tin, tungsten and other minerals. The new airborne geophysical survey will also support future geologic mapping efforts in the Kuskokwim River region of Alaska.

In addition, these funds include grants to the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys to conduct geologic mapping in the Chena portion of the Yukon-Tanana region of east-central Alaska, building on earlier Earth MRI geophysical data collection and USGS research.

“This latest investment builds on years of successful scientific partnership between the USGS and the State of Alaska,” said USGS Director David Applegate. “From past digital elevation mapping to these new Earth MRI surveys, this research exemplifies the value of our science to state and Federal policy makers, industry and the Nation.”

“The State of Alaska and industry exploration geologists are already greatly benefiting from the enhanced understanding of Alaska’s geology and mineral-resource potential provided by the new Earth MRI geoscience data,” said David LePain, Alaska State Geologist and director of the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys. “The geophysical data has stimulated exploration ideas and help explain domains with different mineral systems. The increased level of detail in geologic maps and the associated geochemical analyses will attract and guide explorers in their search for precious- and base metals and other important critical-mineral commodities.”

The critical-mineral commodities that are included in the research projects in Alaska are:

  • Arsenic: used in lumber preservatives, pesticides and semi-conductors
  • Antimony: used in flame-proofing compounds, alloys and batteries
  • Bismuth: used in medical and atomic research
  • Cobalt: used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys
  • Graphite: used for lubricants, batteries and fuel cells
  • Indium: mostly used in LCD screens
  • Platinum group metals: used for catalytic agents
  • Rare earth elements: primarily used in magnets and catalysts
  • Tantalum: used in electronic components, mostly capacitors
  • Tellurium: used in steelmaking and solar cells
  • Tin: used as protective coatings and alloys for steel
  • Tungsten: primarily used to make wear-resistant metals

Earth MRI is a partnership between the USGS and state geological surveys across America to modernize our understanding of the Nation’s fundamental geologic framework and knowledge of mineral resources. The 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has accelerated this new mapping in areas with potential for hosting critical-mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine wastes.

The geologic mapping efforts, which are managed through the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, will refine our understanding of the geology underlying areas of interest. In addition, data preservation efforts managed through the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program will help make historical critical-minerals information electronically available to the public.

More information can be found here. To learn more about how the USGS is investing the resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, visit our website. To learn more about USGS mineral-resource and commodity information, please visit our website.

Courtesy of USGS. See more on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments.

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