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What's Up with the Mineral Resource Databases?

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) mineral databases, Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS) and Minerals Availability System (MAS), are being merged and placed onto an Oracle platform. Find out about more about these databases.


Databases are essential for modern scientific research. The new and exciting work being done in the Mineral Resource Program in the USGS usually begins with the question, "Where are the known deposits?" Mineral-resource databases containing this type of information and more are useful not just to USGS scientists but also to mining and exploration companies, environmental groups, academia, other Federal agencies, and the general public.

For the past few years the USGS has had two large, international mineral-resource databases, MRDS and MAS. MRDS contains over 110,000 sites; MAS has over 220,000 sites. MRDS was built and is maintained by the USGS, and MAS was built and maintained by the Bureau of Mines. In 1996, after the Bureau of Mines was abolished, MAS was transferred to the USGS. MRDS and MAS were compiled for different purposes and contain very different information. For instance, MAS contains information on costs, details of mining methods, and feasibility studies, whereas MRDS has mineralogical and geologic data that are not contained in MAS. Because they are both mineral-resource databases, however, they do contain some information in common, such as location, name(s) of sites, and commodities present.

Map with locations of mineral resources data points in Virginia, and link to larger version of map.
Figure 1 - Map showing location of MAS/MILS and MRDS data points in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Red dots are from the MAS/MILS database and blue dots from the MRDS. These databases are currently being merged into one new database onto an Oracle platform. Link to larger version of map.

What's new

Merging the databases onto a new platform:

We began the process of creating a new structure for merging the two databases onto an Oracle platform in 1998. As of February, 2002, we are just a few months away from moving all the data from both databases into the new redesigned structure.

Combining the information from the two databases has been a much more challenging endeavor than we realized at the start. The complexity was mainly owing to the vastly different structures and forms of data in the two databases. Many individual fields had to be hand cleaned before we were able to convert the data. This part of the process is near completion, and we hope to have the new database converted, tested, and debugged by the summer. Meanwhile, we have initiated discussions on how best to serve the new database to the scientists in the USGS and the general public.

Databases on a new CD:

We are also moving ahead with plans to release to the general public a new version of a CD that includes both databases. The CD will allow data to be searched and plotted on maps using LandView and Marplot (two software products from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, respectively).

Updating and expanding information in the database:

Once the new structure is in place and being served to the scientists of the USGS and the public, the next big step will be to improve and expand the information in the database. We are working with our own scientists to keep the information in the database current and useful and have contractual agreements with several State geological surveys that will substantially improve the coverage in those states. In addition, we will be adding new data from other countries by cooperating with the USGS Global Mineral Resource Assessment Project.

For more information concerning the minerals database, please contact:
Paul Schruben
U.S. Geological Survey
954 National Center
Reston VA 20192
703 648-6142

For information on the technical aspects of the CD, please contact:
Jerry McFaul
U.S. Geological Survey
National Center
Reston VA 20192
703 648-7126

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