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In accordance with President Obama's December 2014 policy announcement, Cuban relations with the United States and western nations is evolving towards a restoration of diplomatic relations and the initiation of a process of normalization of relations between the two countries. With the easing of political tensions and the possible lifting of the trade embargo, potentially strong economic ties could re-emerge providing a significant impact to the regional economy including the U.S. Southeast and the Caribbean region as a whole. One of the responsibilities of the U.S. Geological Survey is to collect, analyze, and disseminate minerals information on nonfuel mineral commodities to provide background information for quantifying possible world mineral supply and integrating economic, societal, and technological mineral exploration trends with other components of mineral flow.

The Cuban geology and structural setting is complex and hosts a variety of non-fuel mineral resources in several terranes. Cuba hosts one of the largest mafic and ultramafic belts in the Caribbean region that are thought to be partially preserved fragments of oceanic crust (ophiolites). Other metallic mineral resources include copper and zinc in massive sulfides, copper in porphyry deposits, manganese oxide in strata-bound deposits, and tungsten vein deposits. Industrial mineral resources include volcanogenic bentonite, bauxite, feldspar, and zeolite minerals, as well as gypsum, kaolin, lime, high-grade limestone, marble, and sand. Much of the exploration and development of these deposits, with the possible exception of nickel and cobalt resources, have remained underdeveloped since the mid-60's. For example, Cuban copper production in 1959 was approximately 4% of world copper production, but no production has been reported since 2011. Part of the drop in production and development of mineral resources on the island can be attributed to the collapse of the U.S.S.R and repeated significant storms responsible for loss of life, property, and environmental damage (i.e. 1993, 1998, and 2004) and drought (1999). In addition, limited larger scale studies show fairly extensive unexplored areas (or a lack of accessible data) compared to adjacent areas in the Caribbean region. Therefore, significant potential for trade and investment lies currently untapped in the Cuban mineral sector.

Project Activities

Cuba map
Map of Cuba from the USGS National Minerals Information Center
  • Compile and assess the status of geologic and geophysical information — historical and current
  • Determine the adequacies and deficiencies of the information to move forward
  • Plan and execute strategies for developing a quantitative assessment and related economic/environmental analyses that would potentially include developing collaborative programs with Cuban scientists including data gathering and seeking outside funding from national and international sources such as USAID and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

Overall, base data development for the assessment and related studies include compilation of a geologic and geophysical maps at the appropriate scale (~1:250,000-scale) and selected critical derivative maps from the geologic map, geophysical maps, geochemical maps and data, remotely-sensed databases, mine and mineral occurrence maps and data, and maps showing terrane permissive for various mineral deposit types. In addition, this effort looks at economic filters affecting mineral growth trends including infrastructure, developmental risks and vulnerabilities, as well as mineral-environmental profiles of the applicable deposits.

Compile and synthesize information in 6 tasks up through 1960 –dominantly USGS reports, during the succeeding period with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) through 1991, and subsequent accessible modern literature. New, digital geologic maps derived from existing geology maps and available geophysical data, along with resource-permissive tracts, will be generated similar to what the USGS has done in Alaska. The discrete tasks are divided as:

  1. Geology, GIS base layers (includes, paleo, lithologic, structural analysis, gravity, magnetic, and age data)
  2. Mineral deposits data base I (Mineral Resource Data System, legacy mine footprint, past and current exploration records)-- Metal deposits
  3. Mineral deposits data base II--Industrial minerals
  4. National Minerals Information Center data (mineral industry profile--production, infrastructure, mineral flow, etc.)
  5. Mineral-Environmental characterization (risks and vulnerabilities, national preserves, critical systems –hydrologic to general ecosystem services)
  6. Large–scale baseline scientific databases: geophysics, geochemical, remotely sensed data systems (including NASA imagery).

Project Contact

Floyd Gray
Phone: 520-670-5582
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center

Mineral Resources Program Science Priority

The use of firm, trade, and brand names is for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. government.

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