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The U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Resources Program Five-Year Plan, 2006-2010

Mission and long-term goals

Vision:

Through world-class research and information management, the MRP provides the nation and the world with the highest quality, most trusted scientific information related to mineral production and mineral resources as well as baseline information on composition and properties of earth materials across the United States and fosters the use of its analyses and information in national and international public and private policy arenas and decision-making.

Mission:

USGS Mineral Resources Program serves the Nation by providing timely and unbiased analyses and comprehensive information related to mineral resources and earth materials required to:

  • 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.

The USGS Mineral Resources Program responds to the President's Business Reference Model, the Department of the Interior Strategic Plan (U.S. Department of the Interior, 2003), the USGS Strategic Plan, and the Geologic Discipline Science Strategy (Bohlen and others, 1998). The Department of the Interior's mission is to protect and manage the Nation's natural resources and cultural heritage; provide scientific and other information about those resources; and honor its special responsibilities to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated Island Communities. The Mineral Resources Program supports the DOI Mission of protecting and managing the Nation's non-fuel mineral resources and provides scientific information about those resources. The MRP mission is consistent with:

  • DOI's Strategic Plan mission area Resource Use, in which the strategic goal is Manage natural resources to promote responsible use and sustain a dynamic economy; the end outcome goal is Manage or influence resources to enhance public benefit, promote responsible use, and ensure optimal value — Non-energy minerals; and strategy 4 is Improve information base, resource management and technical assistance;
  • the USGS mission: Provide the Nation with reliable, unbiased information to describe and understand the earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life; and
  • the Geology Science Strategy goal 3 — Advance the understanding of the Nation's energy and mineral resources in a global geologic, economic, and environmental context. In addition, because MRP houses most of USGS' expertise in geochemistry of solids and potential field geophysics, selected MRP-funded staff and projects contribute to three additional goals identified by Bohlen and others (1998): goal 5 — Establish the geologic framework for ecosystem structure and function; goal 6 — Interpret the links between human health and geologic processes; and goal 7 — Determine the geologic controls on ground-water resources and hazardous waste isolation.

As described in the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) review, the MRP role is clearly defined and unique from other Federal, State, local, or private entities. The MRP was reviewed in FY 2003 for the FY 2005 budget using the PART and was found to be working effectively with partners and fulfilling its missions, and, as a result, received a score of 80. The details of the PART review of MRP are available on pages 209-222 of the document found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2006/pma/interior.pdf [PDF file, 3.6 MB].

Diagram of President's Business Reference Model as it pertains to the MRP.
MRP's goals in relation to key strategic documents, as of November 2005.

In its most recent review of the MRP, the National Research Council (NRC) (2003) identified four federal roles in mineral science and engineering, which are described briefly in the following table:

Role1 Rationale (examples)
an unbiased national source of science and information Government agencies need information in carrying out their regulatory and administrative responsibilities; Federal government has a unique role in addressing issues of national jurisdiction and significance (mineral assessments and databases)
basic research on mineral resources Basic research would most likely be underfunded if left solely to the private sector; government agencies have national jurisdiction, long-term continuity, large multidisciplinary teams of scientists, and highly specialized facilities (geoenvironmental models and mineral deposit research)
advisory Federal agencies need to make public policy decisions relating to mineral issues; if required information were not available from USGS, similar expertise would have to be developed within the individual agencies; USGS serves as a national source of unbiased and impartial advice; in times of crisis interdisciplinary expertise can contribute to solutions of a variety of problems (World Trade Center dust studies; rescue of Quecreek miners)
international—undertaking or supporting international activities that are in the national interest Facilitating more diversified sources of certain minerals; using mineral activities to support economic development and poverty alleviation in the poorest regions of the world; opportunity to provide technical advice and assistance in developing nations (global mineral resource assessment)

1 National Research Council, 2003, p. 24-28.

The long-term goals of the Mineral Resources Program are designed to be ambitious but achievable, with metrics embedded so that progress can be readily measured. The NRC's outline of roles for federal scientists in the realm of mineral resources and earth materials makes it clear that the need for unbiased scientific information should be the common thread linking all MRP activities. Each of the long-term goals listed here meets that basic test: each strives to provide an essential component of scientific information required to underpin a secure supply of non-fuel minerals for the United States.

Long-term (greater than 5 years) goals of the Mineral Resources Program:

Research and Assessments

  1. Ensure availability of up-to-date quantitative assessments of potential for undiscovered mineral deposits
  2. Ensure availability of up-to-date geoenvironmental assessments of priority Federal lands
  3. Ensure availability of reliable geologic, geochemical, geophysical, and mineral locality data for the United States
  • Continuing: Ensure availability of scientific facilities and services required to achieve MRP goals

Minerals Information

  1. Ensure availability of long-term data sets describing mineral production and consumption for national security needs

MRP works for a balance between basic and applied research that provides world-class earth science research and data for policy and decision makers, land managers, other federal and state agencies, the mineral resources industries, foreign governments, nongovernmental organizations, academia, other scientists, and the public. Program funding is allocated for projects whose products further the stated goals and adjusted as required to accommodate increases or decreases in staffing, fixed costs, and overall funds availability.

Prioritization of specific projects undertaken in support of the research and assessment goals is based on five characteristics. Preference will be given to

  • commodities for which current and future supplies are not secure,
  • commodities for which increased demand is anticipated,
  • deposit types that have highest likelihood of occurring on U.S. Federal lands,
  • deposit types that have largest economic or environmental impact, and
  • proposals to work on lands where access is not an issue and cooperation from land owners or managers has been secured.

In addition, MRP allocates funding ($250,000 in FY 2005) to an external grants program, Mineral Resources External Research Program (MRERP), in support of its long-term and five-year goals. Beginning in FY 2006, applicants to this program will be required to demonstrate how their proposed research will assist MRP in reaching the goals outlined in this plan. Applicants are particularly encouraged to identify linkages with existing MRP-funded projects and are provided with project descriptive material with which to identify linkages. This grants program offers an opportunity to attract scientists with skills and interests not available within the USGS workforce and provides support for applied research in economic geology and related fields.

Recipients of MRERP grants, FY 2004 and 2005
Principal Investigator(s) Affiliation(s) Proposal Title
Michael Brown, Boswell Wing, and Sarah Penniston-Dorland University of Maryland Petrogenesis of the Platreef, Bushveld Complex, South Africa, Interrogated Using Mass-Independent Sulfur Isotopes
John Dilles Oregon State University The mineralogy and origin of hydrothermally altered Quaternary volcanic rocks on the south flank of Lassen volcano, California
Lang Farmer University of Colorado Petrogenesis of Cretaceous, Gold-Related Plutons, Eastern Tintina Gold Province, Alaska and Yukon: Implications for Ore Genesis and Resource Distribution in the Northern Cordillera
Richard Fifarek Southern Illinois University, Carbondale Magmatic fluid evolution during the transition from porphyry Cu-Au to high sulfidation Au-Ag deposits: Fluid inclusion evidence from the Pierina (Peru) and Summitville (USA) deposits
Paul Layer and Rainer NewberryReed Lewis and Jeffrey Vervoort University of Alaska, Fairbanks A long-term effort to determine 40Ar/39Ar ages of Alaskan mineral deposits
Reed Lewis and Jeffrey Vervoort Idaho Geological Survey, University of Idaho, and Washington State University Identification of Proterozoic basement domains southwest of the Belt-Purcell basin, northern Idaho
Edmond Mathez American Museum of Natural History Investigations of the Geochemical Evolution of the Stillwater Complex and Origin of Platinum Group Element Deposits from Analysis of Lead Isotopes
Joann Mossa University of Florida Geospatial analysis of channel planform change in mined river floodplains: Impacts and implications for resource extraction policy
Paul Mueller and David Foster University of Florida Relationship of Lithospheric Age and Composition to Mineral Resources Within, Beneath, and Adjacent to the Belt Basin
Philippe Ross and James Ranville Colorado School of Mines Evaluating the influence of soil geochemical characteristics on metal bioavailability
James Saunders and Willis Hames Auburn University Geochronology of Volcanic-Hosted Low-Sulfidation Au-Ag Deposits, Winnemucca-Sleeper Mine area, Northern Great Basin, USA
Aaron Slowey and Gordon Brown Stanford University Environmental Chemistry of Mercury in Sulfidogenic Sediments: A Key to Understanding the Ecological Impact of Mercury and Gold Mining

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