Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
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The importance of conducting national assessments on a recurring basis to ensure adequate mineral supplies and effective stewardship of resources in the future was a significant conclusion of the National Mineral Resource Assessment of 1995 (U.S. Geological Circular 1178, 1998).
Demand for metallic and nonmetallic mineral commodities has increased during the last 10 years, and has accelerated dramatically within the last 5 years, as a consequence of radical changes in the rate of technological growth in the world's most populous countries and depletions in certain sectors of globally distributed mineral resources. In a world in which geopolitical alliances and the associated economic and resource trading links are reevaluated with ever greater frequency, domestic requirements for mineral resources encounter a reality in which uninterrupted access to these materials is neither guaranteed nor even likely given supply chain instabilities. The potential for periodic mineral resource supply chain interruptions to affect the U.S. economy, our associated standard of living, and the stability of global trading partners is analogous to recent dramatic changes in energy resource availability and price.
With these conditions as a backdrop, the USGS Mineral Resources Program (MRP) has concluded that the national metallic mineral resource assessment completed in 1998 should be updated. In updating the assessment, MRP hopes to provide new and existing clients, including the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State, with quantitative information critical to economic forecasting, identification of resource availability, and global geopolitical policy development. In addition, traditional clients for metallic and nonmetallic resource assessment data, including Federal, State, and local land-use planners, as well as U.S. mining companies (who because of changes in geopolitical relations beyond U.S. borders, may conclude that the relative effort of exploration for domestic metallic and nonmetallic mineral sources should increase) will also benefit from the updated assessment. Mineral exploration and development activities are encountering an evolving milieu in which the decision-making process for land use sustainability increasingly involves multiple stakeholders at a national level. An appropriate balance between the need for mining-derived metallic and nonmetallic commodities and maintaining land-use safeguards must be ensured. Developing a scenario that accounts for competing land use needs can only result from a thorough knowledge of 1) mineral resource potential on a national scale, 2) potential impacts of economic constraints on resource development, 3) potential results of developing resources in a variety of geologic settings, and 4) the status and response of geologic systems to various external influences. The resulting knowledge will be critical to developing well-reasoned national land use plans that balance national mineral resource commodity needs in the context of ecosystem sustainability.
The principal objective of the updated National Mineral Resource Assessment (uNMRA)–Planning Phase Project was to lay the groundwork for conducting the first quantitative mineral resource assessment of the 21st Century for the United States of America. The Nation's mineral wealth was first addressed in the Paley Commission Report of 1952 (President's Materials Policy Commission, 1952). Subsequently, the USGS published Professional Paper 820 (Brobst and Pratt, 1973) in response to the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970. The need for developing a systematic and uniform approach to national mineral resource assessments was recognized within the USGS and the next assessment effort, begun in 1995, focused on applying quantitative methodologies to the analysis of mineral resources. The importance of conducting quantitative national assessments on a recurring basis to ensure adequate mineral supplies and effective stewardship of resources in the future was a critical conclusion of the National Mineral Resource Assessment of 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1178, 1998).
The following activities have been a focus of preparations related to conducting an updated national assessment:
Completing these objectives has enhanced the ability of staff associated with the Mineral Resources Program to conduct an updated quantitative national mineral resource assessment.
Given the objectives of the Project described here, namely laying the groundwork for conducting a systematic and comprehensive quantitative assessment of the Nation's mineral resource potential, few investigations within the purview of the Mineral Resources Program are apt to be of greater significance. The assessment will be conducted in the context of a world dominated by uncertainty, globalization, and a complex array of free and controlled markets that result in rapid fluctuations in prices of materials and goods that dramatically impact domestic markets. Resource information transmitted to the Departments of Commerce and State potentially has tremendous impact on the nature of our Nation's political alliances and economic interactions. The requirements for developing systematic, rigorous, comprehensive, and quantitative mineral resource assessments of metal and non-metal resources of the Nation are an essential component of the USGS mission. The importance of conducting national assessments on a recurring basis to ensure adequate mineral supplies and effective stewardship of resources in the future is a critical action to meet current and future goals of the USGS.