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Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center

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Landsat 7-based material mapping of the U.S. with inset showing one Landsat scene

Maps of exposed surface mineral groups derived from automated spectral analysis of Landsat 7 ETM+ and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) data are being generated for areas of the U.S. and its territories having potential for 1) undiscovered mineral deposits and (or) 2) environmental effects associated with mining and (or) unmined, hydrothermally-altered rocks. The mapping is being continually updated over the conterminous United States, and currently covers the western states with results 1,630 ASTER scenes and all of the lower 48 states with results from 447 Landsat 7 scenes.

More detailed and accurate mineral and vegetation maps generated from spectroscopic analysis of ASTER and "hyperspectral" data acquired by airborne imaging systems such as the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS), HyMap, and SpecTIR are also provided for comparison with the automated analysis products. Most of these detailed maps are available over important active or abandoned mining districts.

The maps are available online for interactive viewing in a web browser. The underlying map services can be accessed using ArcMap for integration with other geospatial data. References for the maps available in the online services are listed below.

An algorithm for the automated analysis of Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) data has been developed, and preliminary results covering the western, conterminous United States are available for viewing and analysis as an internal USGS web service. The results will be posted to the public web application after supporting documentation has been published. The new "coastal aerosol" band present in OLI data provides important new capabilities for mineral mapping which will have particular impact on geoenvironmental site assessment and monitoring.

Support for this ongoing effort has been provided by the Updated National Mineral Resource Assessment and other projects of the USGS Mineral Resources Program.

Online Map Resources

  • View comprehensive JavaScript-based web application (ideal for mobile devices): Online viewer (data updated August 10, 2017; viewer updated continually)
    • New The web application has been updated with various new features, including an "Add Data" widget Legend icon. This widget allows users to add geospatial data from their own organizations, ArcGIS Online, or elsewhere on the web to the application for integration with the currently available data. Supported data types include ArcGIS services, WMS OGC web services, shapefiles, and KML, GeoRSS, and CSV files.
    • Viewing tips:
      • If you haven't viewed the application in several weeks or longer, and (or) some features are not displaying correctly, clear your browser cache and cookies as the application may have been updated.
      • Use your mouse wheel to quickly zoom in and out.
      • To view explanations of the maps currently displayed in the viewer, click the Legend button WAB Legend icon in the top toolbar. Map explanations are also available within the Layer List WAB Layers icon.
      • To zoom to a data layer or regional study area, click the small "down arrow" icons on the right-hand edge of the Layer List WAB Layers icon, or use the bookmarks accessible from the Bookmark Tool WAB Bookmark tool icon.
      • Refreshing (F5) the application in your browser will reset the Layer List to default configuration.
      • Use the Identify and Query Tool WAB ID tool icon to query the thematic maps and determine the material(s) identified in a pixel. Start the tool, and then click on a map element (colored pixel, polygon, line, or point feature). The attributes associated with most vector-based features (points, lines, and polygons) can also be viewed simply by clicking on the features without starting the Identify Tool, and by accessing the Attribute Table via the small white tab at bottom center of the viewer. A maximum of 1,000 query results will be returned at a time. To see complete results, scroll down to the bottom of the Query or Identify widget panels.
  • View ArcGIS services in ArcMap:
    • In ArcCatalog, add a new ArcGIS Server and select "Use GIS services."
    • Add "" as server URL.
    • Navigate to "usminmap" server directory.
    • Drag and Drop services into ArcMap window.
    • Integrate maps with your data.
  • View Landsat- and ASTER-derived automated products in Google Earth: KMZ file (updated January 19, 2017)

Usage Guide for Large-Area Material Maps

The large-area material maps presented here were designed to aid in the identification of mineral groups in exposed rocks, soils, mine waste rock, and mill tailings on the Earth’s surface. Many man-made materials have spectral absorption features in the shortwave infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum that can appear similar to those of various mineral groups at the spectral and spatial resolutions of Landsat and ASTER satellite data. For example, many plastics, asphalt, and other organic materials show deep absorption between 2.30 and 2.40 micrometers caused by a C-H combination band (Clark, 1999). This absorption can mimic those of the clay-sulfate-mica-marble mineral group detectable using Landsat Thematic Mapper (Rockwell, 2013a) and Operational Land Imager data, and the carbonate-propylitic mineral group detectable using the employed ASTER data analysis methodology (Rockwell, 2012). Some construction materials, including fine aggregates used in some asphalt shingles, have absorptions near 2.2 micrometers (Clark and others, 2007) that will be identified as the sericite-smectite mineral group in the ASTER-derived results. Therefore, mineral groups are often erroneously detected in built-up areas such as cities, towns, and along roadways. Reflections between man-made objects can also result in spurious spectral responses in such areas.

Scenes of Landsat and ASTER satellite data were selected based on several criteria, the most important of which are that the presence of clouds, smoke, haze, and snow is minimized, and that the scenes be acquired as close as possible to the northern hemisphere summer solstice in mid-June to insure maximal solar irradiance (solar elevation angle) and minimal terrain shadow. The number of scene acquisition dates was minimized by selecting as many high-quality scenes from a single satellite overpass (path, or swath) as possible (optimal scenes from a single swath acquired on the same day). Given these criteria, there may be substantial differences in scene acquisition date between scenes in a given swath and between those of adjacent swaths. The varying scene acquisition dates may result in seams of identified surface materials between scenes of the same and adjacent swaths, as the automated analysis methodologies utilize statistics generated from the data being processed, which are most often individual scenes. Most Landsat and ASTER scenes are analyzed individually and the resultant maps are then mosaicked into a single map. In rare cases, several scenes are mosaicked together prior to analysis. Variations in soil moisture and vegetation growth stage between scenes are another possible cause of seams in analysis results.

ASTER visible to near-infrared (VNIR) and short-wave infrared (SWIR) data are each collected by a unique telescope and detector array. In rare cases, the data in an ASTER scene collected by these two sensor systems are geometrically mis-registered to each other, resulting in corrupted pixel spectra. The VNIR data of one pixel will be combined with the SWIR data of another pixel located 30-100 meters away. For such scenes, the automated analysis methodology will result in an overabundance of pixels identified as “advanced argillic +/- ferric iron” (assigned a color of red in the maps) in areas where clay, sulfate, and mica minerals are abundant. Examples of scenes with such erroneous results are in the Independence Range in northern Nevada, and the area surrounding the Tintic mining district in the East Tintic Mountains near Eureka, Utah.

Suggested Citation

Rockwell, B.W., Bonham, L.C., and Giles, S.A., 2015, USGS National Map of Surficial Mineralogy: U.S. Geological Survey Online Map Resource. Available at

Additional Information

DMT poster thumbnail

A poster describing the National Map of Surficial Mineralogy was presented at the Digital Mapping Techniques (DMT) 2013 conference.


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