FY2006 Mineral Resources Program Accomplishments
Alaska: Understanding Connections Between Minerals and Petroleum Resources on Federal Lands
View of Wulik River drainage in the western Brooks Range near the Red Dog deposit showing rocks favorable for zinc and barite that also have potential as petroleum source rocks (on left) in thrust contact with rocks favorable for phosphate deposits that show evidence for migration of oil and gas.
The large endowment of mineral and energy resources in the Brooks Range of Alaska suggests that the scale of the fluid flow and flux of metals and petroleum in the sedimentary basins was vast. A recently completed project examined why and how the world-class deposits of zinc, barite, phosphate, and petroleum were formed and the processes involved. The multidisciplinary studies that made up the project demonstrate that coupling of many processes resulted in the formation of the large deposits of zinc, barite, and phosphate in the Brooks Range. The processes that led to the formation of barite were not independent of those that formed phosphate or zinc, but rather the deposits were enhanced (demonstrated by the higher grade and larger quantities of the commodities) by simultaneous processes. Direct evidence that rocks deposited in deep water were a source for some North Slope oils and that hydrocarbon migration occurred in the same rocks that host the phosphate deposits also resulted from the studies. The research, supported by both the Mineral Resources Program and the Energy Resources Program, demonstrates the vitality that multidisciplinary collaboration can bring to the understanding of the complex relationships between mineral and energy resources. Ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program.
Metallogeny of the Great Basin: Crustal Evolution, Fluid Flow, and Ore Deposits
The Great Basin physiographic province in Nevada and portions of neighboring states currently is the second largest gold producing area in the world. It also is host to world-class base metal deposits, a variety of other metallic and industrial mineral resources, as well as petroleum and geothermal energy resources. Although the area has been the focus of numerous studies over the past century, new techniques that utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geoinformatic tools to organize and display legacy data have provided researchers with beneficial new ways to synthesize and reinterpret geologic, geophysical, geochemical, and hydrologic information in space and time. This in combination with ongoing research on specific aspects of the geologic history and ore deposits has resulted in new insights into the interplay between key tectonic events, hydrothermal fluid flow, and ore genesis in the Great Basin. The databases, geologic maps, sections, reconstructions, and hydrogeologic models produced as part of this project are valuable products in their own right. The increased understanding of relationships between ore deposits, mineral belts, and the geologic evolution of the Great Basin represents cutting edge research on the main mining and exploration areas in the region that will be extremely useful to industry and land-use managers in Federal, State, and Local agencies. The increased understanding of when, where, and how hydrothermal systems operate and interact with local factors to produce significant ore deposits for particular commodities is also useful in the evaluation of similar terrains and deposit types in other parts of the world. This work supports the goal of the Mineral Resources Program to ensure availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
Freshwater Diatomite Deposits Identified in the Western United States
Diatoms that formed 15 million years ago in a lake near Carlin, Nevada, as seen through a high-powered microscope.
Widely used for filtration, absorption, and abrasives, diatom-rich sediments contain the Nation's largest commercial diatomite deposits and in 2004, the United States accounted for approximately 30 percent of world diatomite production. New studies by USGS Mineral Resource Program (MRP) scientists reveal how ancient lakes in the Western States produced large numbers of diatoms, a type of single-celled algae found in lakes, streams, and oceans. Diatom accumulations in some lakes occurred over thousands of years, producing a thick layer called diatomite. But the formation of a diatomite deposit in a freshwater lake requires that many processes take place in and adjacent to the lake. The absence of one or more of these processes can limit or prevent the growth of diatoms and thus the formation of a thick diatomite deposit. In fact, far more freshwater lake sediments in the Western States do not contain diatomite deposits, or contain only small deposits, than contain deposits of commercial value. Identifying the processes that formed economically large diatomite deposits was an important facet of the MRP-funded research. Because many diatomite deposits may be present on public lands in the west, the results of this research is of use to both Federal and nonfederal land-use managers in the evaluation of diatomite resources. The results also further knowledge about ancient climate (“paleoclimate”) and landscape evolution in the Western States and have important applications to studies of ground water and of other types of mineral deposits. This work supports the goal of the Mineral Resources Program to ensure availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
3-D Model Shows Distribution of Hydrothermally Altered Rocks on Mount Adams, Washington
View of the southwest side of Mount Adams showing hydrothermal alteration on the edifice (white and yellow areas near top of cone), the White Salmon glacier, and, in the foreground, the young debris flow known as the Salt Creek lahar (deposited less than 200 years before present) that contains abundant blocks of hydrothermally altered rocks derived from near the summit. The White Salmon glacier occupies a cirque formed by collapse of hydrothermally altered rocks that produced debris flows that flowed down the White Salmon River in the past.
Stratovolcanoes, such as those that comprise the Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon, and northern California can be weakened by migration and circulation of hot fluids from deep below the surface. This process is called hydrothermal alteration, and can be particularly damaging when clay-rich altered rocks are later saturated with water. The likelihood of catastrophic collapse increases with the presence of weakened altered rocks and the collapse of the volcano edifice, in turn, can trigger destructive debris flows that are known to extend long distances from the volcano. Because hydrothermally altered rocks are an integral component of many mineral deposits, the Mineral Resources Program (MRP) has long supported research to study them. Newly completed research demonstrates that the information acquired can also be used to aid evaluation of volcanic hazards. At Mount Adams, Washington, a dormant stratovolcano in the Cascade Range, hydrothermal alteration is ongoing and new high-resolution geophysical data over the edifice of the volcano, combined with geologic mapping and rock property measurements, have been used to build a three-dimensional model of hydrothermally altered rocks. Altered rocks are postulated to extend to depths greater than 1000 m beneath the summit and to encompass more than 1.5 km3 total volume of material in the central core north of the summit. The three-dimensional model can be used to understand hydrothermal alteration and mineral-deposit-forming processes, as well as to aid in the evaluation of the debris avalanche hazard associated with hydrothermal alteration and in quantitative models of slope stability for hazards assessments conducted by the Volcano Hazards Program and used by a variety of local planners in the region. Ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program.
New Geochemical Method to Evaluate Bioavailable Metals in Low Temperature Water
USGS scientist tests new method for determining dissolved bioavailable metal concentrations using the Diffusion Gradients in Thin Films (DGT) technique to assess and monitor water quality in areas impacted by mining activities.
Understanding the relationships between metal concentrations and their availability and toxicity to aquatic biota is critical for land managers and regulatory agencies that must assess the impacts of mine drainage to the environment or develop remediation strategies for areas affected by historical mining activities. Mineral Resource Program (MRP) scientists, in work completed in FY2006, have utilized a new method, called Diffusion Gradients in Thin Films (DGT), in combination with the Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) to determine metal bioavailability and toxicity to aquatic organisms and to assist in evaluating the environmental impacts of mine drainage. The DGT method measures the concentration of a dissolved metal that is able to diffuse through membranes with very small pore sizes. It has been postulated that this concentration is similar to the portion of total dissolved metal that is available for uptake by organisms. The Biotic Ligand Model uses the composition of a solution to determine whether dissolved metal concentrations at a given site are too high to maintain a healthy aquatic community. The DGT and BLM results in several mine drainage systems were in very good agreement with previously conducted toxicity studies at the sites and demonstrated that the relatively easy DGT and BLM methods can provide land managers with a faster and less expensive alternative to assess and monitor water quality in such systems. Developing and applying new approaches for understanding the transport and fate of metals in the environment is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program
Industrial Minerals in the Eastern United States
Garnets suitable for a variety of uses including both as an abrasive and as a gemstone. In the Eastern United States, garnet has been mined in New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas. Data on mineral chemistry, weathering characteristics, and bulk chemistry made available by MRP scientists, can be used to determine appropriate uses for the garnet resources. Photograph by N. Foley.
Industrial mineral production in the Eastern United States is significant and the arrangement, distribution, and genesis of industrial mineral commodities and deposit types are important to infrastructure development and maintenance, agriculture, recreation, industry, and mitigation of environmental problems. The diverse set of commodities we call industrial minerals are being used increasingly in novel and unconventional applications. Research supported by the Mineral Resources Program (MRP) has resulted in the development of geologic, geophysical, and statistical methods and models to predict the occurrence, grades, and tonnages of industrial minerals such as garnet, talc, sand and gravel, building stone, and aggregate. Garnet, for example is a gemstone as well as an industrial mineral used in abrasive airblasting, abrasive coatings, filtration media, waterjet cutting, and grinding. Recent MRP-supported studies aid in the identification of garnet source rocks, types of garnet, and determination of the optimal use for a garnet resource. The results of the research in the Northeast on industrial minerals has proved useful to regional land-use managers from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and the National Academy of Science Transportation Research Board. This work supports the goal of the MRP of ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
Complex Systems Theory Applied to Basin Studies in Southwest U.S.
Complex systems theory allows scientists to model systems by considering entities as "agents" that interact with each other and their surroundings in time and space. When we observe the ensemble of interactions at various scales, unexpected behavior often occurs that is called "emergent behavior" or "self-organization." Mineral deposits can be viewed as a case of complex system self organization. Basins in the southwestern part of the U.S. were chosen for the Mineral Resource Program-funded study because these basins are thought to host undiscovered mineral deposits and are a critical source of water for developing urban areas in the southwest. Regional mapping of probable deep penetrative fracture systems on the Colorado Plateau in Arizona, supported in part by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, led to development of a method for producing maps of probable recharge ability, taking into account the variation of deep-fracture densities. The U.S. Army funded USGS scientists to conduct electromagnetic soundings surveys in order to map depth to water and clay content of basin fill sediments and to define water reservoir properties in support of long-term planning for their bases. The U.S. Forest Service has supported determinations of metal ion movement from developed and undeveloped mineral occurrences in surrounding mountains into the basins by ground water. Simple models of mine development using fuzzy cognitive maps demonstrate the extreme non-linear response of development to factors such as environmental quality and nearby urban development, yielding surprising scenarios in which mining can coexist with urban development and environmentally sound quality of life issues. Most important, these models allow development of robust methods for combining disparate datasets into models that can be objectively evaluated for many land use scenarios. Ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program.
New Mineral Resource Assessment of Federal Lands in Nevada Released
Las Vegas, Nevada, a rapidly growing urban area, is surrounded by public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that face increasing competition for their use. The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-282) temporarily withdrew a group of areas designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) from mineral entry, pending an application for permanent withdrawal by the BLM. MRP scientists recently completed a mineral resource assessment for the BLM land managers of these ACECs. Numerous areas with high potential for undiscovered deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, platinum group elements, germanium, gallium, vermiculite limestone, gypsum, clay, and zeolite minerals are delineated. The work, a cooperative effort between USGS, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is now available on line at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2006/5197/. Ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program.
Minerals Information Data Used in Materials Flow Studies
Data sets compiled and maintained by the MRP allow the examination of the lifecycle of mineral materials from extraction through processing and consumption to disposal and recycling. Selected studies from the past year include trends in aluminum and steel used in automobile construction; environmental effects related to the loss of lead weights used to balance automobile tires; changes to the minerals industry related to changing metal contents in cellular phones; and the potential environmental effects related to the increased consumption of mercury in fluorescent light bulbs. Publications on materials flow research that can be found on line at http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/mflow/. Ensuring availability of long-term data sets describing mineral production and consumption for national security needs is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program.
Significant Integrated Science Study and Natural Resource Assessment of Madagascar
In 2003, USAID contracted for Mineral Resources Program (MRP) personnel with expertise to determine what would be involved to conduct a mineral resource assessment in Madagascar. The initial preassessment was completed and delivered on time and as a result, the World Bank funded two subsequent studies by USGS personnel from the Geology, Water and Biology Disciplines, with contributions from colleagues from academia and industry, that were coordinated by MRP personnel. The resulting multidisciplinary study of the Anosy Region in southern Madagascar integrated data on water, geology, mineral resources, geophysics, biology, ecology, and socio-economic factors into a usable framework that addressed the developmental concerns of the Malagasy people. The comprehensive final report, delivered in French (Une Présentation de l'Impact Future des Minéraux, l'Hydrologie, et l'Écologie sur le Développement Économique Régional Intégré de la Région de l'Anosy, du Sud-est de Madagascar), included multidisciplinary Geographic Information System (GIS) layers. The World Bank is formally publishing the results of this important study and is using it as a model for future work. The success of this project goes far toward increasing the reputation of the USGS in the world arena and has paved the way for significant future reimbursable, collaborative integrated science studies. The ability to conduct the multidisciplinary study was made possible because of the expertise maintained in the MRP as part of the fundamental goal to ensure the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
New Geologic and Mineral Resource Map of Afghanistan
Geologic and mineral resource map of Afghanistan compiled by J.L. Doebrich and R.R. Wahl is available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1038/.
More than 25 years of conflict have largely destroyed the natural resource organizations in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In an effort to reconstruct the country's natural resource sector, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Trade Development Agency, and the Afghan government, funded a multidisciplinary project by USGS scientists to help rebuild the geoscience capabilities and to assess the potential for undiscovered natural resources. As part of this effort the USGS Mineral Resources Program has produced a new digital geologic and mineral resource map of Afghanistan at the scale of 1:850,000 available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1038/. The digital map was compiled from data in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) format layers and includes more than 1000 metallic, nonmetallic, and energy mineral localities. This map provides a foundation for ongoing mineral, oil and gas, coal, water, and earthquake hazard assessments being conducted by the USGS in Afghanistan. The work was possible because of the expertise maintained in the Mineral Resources Program to ensure the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
Airborne Geophysical and Remote Sensing Surveys of Afghanistan
Existing geophysical data for Afghanistan was identified and acquired, digitized, and released in preparation for the collection of new data. To see the digital version of the existing analog data see: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1204/.
Mineral Resources Program (MRP) geophysicists, along with colleagues from the Navy Research Laboratory and the Afghan Geological Survey, completed a much anticipated airborne gravity, magnetic, photography, and synthetic aperture radar survey for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Data, collected from a P3 aircraft, is being used to provide information on surface and subsurface composition and structure of the country, including identification of basins that might host oil and gas and/or water resources, specific rock units associated with mineral deposits, and faults that could pose seismic hazards. During the same timeframe, MRP remote sensing specialists collaborated with the U.S. Air Force and NASA personnel on a preliminary airborne hyperspectral survey of selected high-priority regions of Afghanistan. This data, collected from a WB-57 aircraft, is being used to map specific minerals associated with hydrothermal processes that might identify areas of mineral potential. Both of these airborne surveys support the USGS effort to provide scientific guidance for the reconstruction of the Afghan natural resources sector. The work was possible because of the expertise maintained in the Mineral Resources Program to ensure the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
Geophysical Techniques Help the Aggregate Industry
Cross section of electrical resistivity over a sand and gravel deposit. Blue and purple colors represent sands and gravels; green to red colors represent bedrock.
Scientists from the Mineral Resources Program collaborated with a major U.S. aggregate producer to determine the best geophysical methods to use for the characterization of sand and gravel deposits. Studies were conducted to compare five well-established and well-tested surface geophysical techniques. Because aggregate commonly is developed in or near urbanized areas, methods were chosen that were able to minimize the effects of cultural features, such as buildings, road traffic, radio transmitters, fences, buried utilities, surface power lines, and construction and manufacturing equipment. The methods each provided the resolution, differentiation, and depth of investigation suitable for a variety of sand and gravel deposit types and support the goal of the Mineral Resources Program of ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits.
Assessing Potential Environmental and Health Hazards of Flood Sediments Deposited in New Orleans by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that impacted the greater New Orleans area in August and September 2005, the USGS collected and analyzed samples of sediments deposited by the hurricane flood waters. Scientists supported by the USGS Mineral Resources Program (MRP) worked with the USGS Louisiana Water Science Center to plan and implement this study, and coordinated well over 30 different analytical methods performed in MRP labs and other labs from across the USGS, SUNY Stony Brook, Colorado School of Mines, UC Davis, and EPA National Enforcement Investigations Center. The analyses examined the physical, inorganic and organic chemical, and microbial characteristics of the samples to identify possible contaminants and to help cleanup managers understand how these newly deposited sediments might respond to ongoing environmental processes and influence human health. Through comparisons with pre-Katrina soil geochemistry data for New Orleans, USGS researchers concluded that the hurricane flood sediments in the downtown New Orleans area are largely reworked local soil material having pre-existing contamination of lead. other metals, and some organic contaminants; in other areas outside of downtown, only localized contamination was found. In contrast, the USGS found that sediment samples collected in suburbs near marshes had high pyrite contents, and therefore could generate environmentally harmful acid drainage as they weather. Cleanup managers used USGS information as validation of their decisions on how to dispose of the flood sediments. The ability to conduct the study was possible because of the expertise maintained in the MRP as part of two fundamental goals: (1) to ensure the availability of up-to-date geoenvironmental assessments of priority Federal lands and (2) ensure availability of scientific facilities and services required to achieve MRP goals.
Release of Report Showing Known Asbestos Occurrences in Central United States
A report prepared by Mineral Resource Program (MRP) scientists contains a regional map and an associated database inventorying 36 locations of reported natural asbestos and fibrous amphibole occurrences in the central U.S., as part of an ongoing project to update our existing information on asbestos localities. Asbestos is a generic name given to the fibrous variety of several naturally occurring minerals, the most common of which have been mined and used in commercial products. Asbestos is made up of fiber bundles. These bundles, in turn, are composed of long and thin fibers that can be easily separated from one another. Naturally occurring asbestos (asbestos that occurs in its natural geologic environment as opposed to sites where asbestos products have been concentrated by human activities) has recently become the focus of concern and attention from the public health community, due to the potential exposures that may result if the asbestos-bearing rocks are disturbed by natural erosion or human activities. The new report, which is based on a search of existing scientific literature, is designed to provide a better understanding of the geologic factors that contribute to the presence of asbestos across the nation. Specific types of asbestos present in a 20-state region stretching from Minnesota to Texas and West Virginia to Kansas are identified as having different types of asbestos and asbestiform minerals. Available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1211/, the report is the second in a series which originated last year with the publication of a similar report on the eastern United States.
Pilot Study of Natural and Manmade Chemicals in North American Soils Completed
In 2003 the Mineral Resources Program (MRP) initiated a tri-national collaborative effort with Canada and Mexico to establish a soil geochemical database for North America. When completed, the soil geochemical survey will provide baseline soil chemistry data against which future changes in soil composition can be measured and that can be used by Federal, State, Provincial, and local agencies when making risk-assessment and land-use decisions. In FY 2006, both regional and continental-scale pilot studies were completed to determine the optimum sampling and analytical protocols, to assess the relationship among observed patterns in soil composition and possible human and natural contributions to soil composition, and to investigate the feasibility of mapping microbial characteristics of soil on such a large scale. A tri-national agreement on sampling and analytical protocol has been achieved and the sampling program will begin in FY 2007. MRP partners in State geological surveys to conduct the soil sampling in the United States, which is expected to continue through FY 2010. The data from this new survey will supersede the fragmented and outdated chemical and biological survey data that currently exist for small parts of North America and will be available to all researchers concerned with environmental monitoring and with effects of soil composition on human and animal health. This activity supports the long-term MRP goal to ensure availability of reliable geologic, geochemical, geophysical, and mineral locality data for the United States.
Use of On-Line Minerals Information Continues to Grow
Customer use of the MRP web site containing information on the global supply of and demand for minerals and materials essential to the U.S. economy continues to increase (http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/). The web site, which contains publications on more than 100 minerals and materials, as well as the mineral industries of 180 other countries, had an average of 410,000 publications downloaded each month in 2006. One example of the importance of minerals information was cited the recent Congressional testimony of Drew A. Meyer, Vice President of Vulcan Materials Company: “In 2004, the nation was facing a surge in the price of steel and cement… There seemed to be no end in sight to the price increases until the [USGS] Minerals Information Team released data showing the steel and cement shortages were not due to a supply shortage, but a logistical problem because ships that normally transport the products were busy elsewhere… The MIT data helped to calm the markets, and we were able to weather the storm.” The work described in Mr. Meyer's testimony supports the goal of the MRP of ensuring availability of long-term data sets describing mineral production and consumption for national security needs.
In-Depth Understanding of Porphyry Copper Deposits
Elements dispersed from porphyry copper deposits have long been used to trace back to and discover the source deposits. When certain of these copper deposits are weathered and eroded, they convert rainwater to metals-charged acid rock drainage. In the natural process of neutralizing the acidic water, a group of deposits known as ferricretes, manganocretes, and exotic copper deposits are formed. This natural spring, the site of an ongoing exotic copper deposit forming system, has water containing more than 22 parts per million of dissolved copper. Photograph by T. Hayes.
Recent studies in the copper-rich province of Arizona and adjacent areas of New Mexico and Sonora have contributed to a better understanding of the life cycle of porphyry copper deposits. This province, which accounts for about 10 percent of the world's copper production, was the subject of in-depth examination of the regional geologic and geochemical characteristics of these deposits as well as their economic and production history. New geologic mapping has advanced our understanding of not only how these deposits formed but also how they were dismembered and in some cases concealed by faulting events and later sedimentation. This new understanding enables us to reassemble faulted regions to their original configuration and enhances our ability to assess where undiscovered mineral resources may have formed and may now be either preserved or eroded away. Historical production and economic data have been used to analyze the impacts of capital investment, technological innovation, and exploration on the region's copper mining industry. This has led to a better understand of what will define future trends in a region where issues of urbanization, habitat preservation, and mining are becoming increasingly important. In addition the current research is being used by the U.S. Forest Service as part of an environmental assessment of the Coronado National Forest. This work supports the goals of the Mineral Resources Program to ensure availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits and to ensure availability of long-term data sets describing mineral production and consumption for national security needs.
(Bristol) Bay Resource Management Plan Area, Alaska
As part of its land planning and management responsibilities, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is producing a series of resource management plans (RMPs) for regions of Alaska in which it oversees Federal lands. Scientists supported by the USGS Mineral Resources Program were asked to provide a quantitative assessment of undiscovered locatable mineral resources for inclusion into the Bay RMP area report. The recently completed study identified numerous areas with high potential for undiscovered deposits of silver, gold, copper, iron, mercury, molybdenum, lead, and platinum. Ensuring the availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits is a fundamental goal of the Mineral Resources Program.
Mineral Resources External Research Program
The Mineral Resources Program (MRP) offered a grant and/or cooperative agreement opportunity designed to support minerals research for the third consecutive year. Awards totaling one million dollars were split among 15 topics supporting researchers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, British Columbia, and New Zealand who will conduct research that support the goals of the MRP. This research opportunity invited proposals from universities, state agencies, industry, or other private sector organizations to conduct research that will help improve stewardship of public lands and resources; formulate national and international economic and security policy; sustain prosperity and improve quality of life; and protect and improve public health, safety, and environmental quality. Our mineral endowment is one of our Nation´s most important assets—it fuels our economy, impacts our environment, and enhances all of our lives. For more information about the Mineral Resources External Research Program, visit http://minerals.usgs.gov/mrerp/.