USGS invests millions in critical-minerals mapping in Alaska

A view  of the Kuskokwim river, in southwest Alaska, taken by NASA.

A view of the Kuskokwim river, in southwest Alaska, taken by NASA.

24th May 2023

By: Creamer Media Reporter


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The US Geological Survey (USGS) will invest more than $5.8-million to map critical-mineral resources in Alaska in partnership with the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.

“I’m pleased to announce more investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve mapping of Alaska’s geology and critical mineral resources,” said Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo

“From the Yukon-Tanana region in the East to the Kuskokwim river in the West, we are working with the entire state of Alaska to assess domestic resource potential and secure a reliable and sustainable supply of critical minerals. I am especially pleased that these same data will help provide a better understanding of geothermal resources, water resources and natural hazards.” 

The funding comes largely from a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investment in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), which provides more than $74-million in new mapping funding each year to improve knowledge of domestic critical-mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine waste. Overall, this Act invests $510.7-million through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the nation’s supply chains, national defence and economy.

The Earth MRI investments will enable airborne geophysical surveys of the poorly mapped Kuskokwim river region of western Alaska. This region was chosen by the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys and the USGS for its critical-mineral potential, including commodities such as antimony, cobalt, gold, rare earth elements, tin, tungsten and other minerals. The new airborne geophysical survey will also support future geologic mapping efforts in the Kuskokwim river region of Alaska.

In addition, these funds include grants to the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys to conduct geologic mapping in the Chena portion of the Yukon-Tanana region of east-central Alaska, building on earlier Earth MRI geophysical data collection and USGS research.

“This latest investment builds on years of successful scientific partnership between the USGS and the State of Alaska,” said USGS director David Applegate. “From past digital elevation mapping to these new Earth MRI surveys, this research exemplifies the value of our science to state and federal policy makers, industry and the nation.”

“The state of Alaska and industry exploration geologists are already greatly benefiting from the enhanced understanding of Alaska’s geology and mineral-resource potential provided by the new Earth MRI geoscience data,” said  Alaska state geologist and director of the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys David LePain.

“The geophysical data has stimulated exploration ideas and helped explain domains with different mineral systems. The increased level of detail in geologic maps and the associated geochemical analyses will attract and guide explorers in their search for precious and base metals and other important critical-mineral commodities.”

The critical-mineral commodities that are included in the research projects in Alaska are:

  • Arsenic: used in lumber preservatives, pesticides and semi-conductors
  • Antimony: used in flame-proofing compounds, alloys and batteries
  • Bismuth: used in medical and atomic research
  • Cobalt: used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys
  • Graphite: used for lubricants, batteries and fuel cells
  • Indium: mostly used in LCD screens
  • Platinum group metals: used for catalytic agents
  • Rare earth elements: primarily used in magnets and catalysts
  • Tantalum: used in electronic components, mostly capacitors
  • Tellurium: used in steelmaking and solar cells
  • Tin: used as protective coatings and alloys for steel
  • Tungsten: primarily used to make wear-resistant metals.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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