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Critical Mineral Resources for the 21st Century

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Statement of problem: A broad range of existing and emerging technologies used by developed and rapidly-developing economies are generating unprecedented demand for less-common minerals such as lithium (Li), indium (In), tellurium (Te), gallium (Ga), antimony (Sb), beryllium (Be), high-purity quartz, and rare earth elements (REE). These technologies range from new alternative energy sources to seemingly mundane routine uses, such as fire-retardants.  For a variety of reasons, supplies of these elements tend to lag significantly behind demand.  One of the principal causes of this lag is the limited amount of exploration done in the last few decades for new sources of these minerals.  There are significant gaps in our knowledge of the geologic occurrence, resource availability, methods of extraction, and environmental behavior and management of these elements.  Ensuring an adequate supply depends on learning how to discover and develop new sources of supply in an economic and environmentally sensitive fashion.

Contacts: Klaus Schulz, 703-648-6320, kschulz@usgs.gov
and Dwight Bradley, 907-786-7434, dbradley@usgs.gov

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  Criticality Matrix, illustration from DOE report

Figures from US Department of Energy Report, 2010 Critical Materials Strategy Summary. Criticality is a measure that combines importance to the economy and risk of supply disruption.

 

The strategy and approach of this project:
Research needs include

  • Developing economic models to identify critical minerals;
  • Studying the geology, geochemistry, and geophysics of known  and potential new deposits for these minerals; and
  • Determining appropriate methods for assessing environmental impacts of extraction and use of these minerals.
  • Investigations of low-temperature aqueous geochemistry and human/ecosystem toxicity of the natural and industrial forms of these elements is also necessary, as increased global use of these elements will alter their net fluxes through soil, water, and air.


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Page Last Modified: 13-Sep-2013@11:38