Environmental Protection

USGS-sponsored Study to Uncover Mineral Supplies

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently awarded grants for research on copper, lithium, rare earth elements, uranium, and phosphates, which are important to the U.S. economy, national security, and land-use decisions.

The agency's Mineral Resources External Research Program invited research proposals that will help ensure:

  • a sustainable supply of minerals;
  • understand the relationship between minerals, the environment, and public health;
  • provide information to make informed land-use decisions;
  • and deliver mineral information critical to national security.
Proposals were accepted from academia, state agencies, industry and other private sector organizations and scientists.

Recipients of the 2010 grants include:

LeeAnn Munk of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and C. Page Chamberlain of Stanford University will study the formation of lithium resources in brine waters and clays, helping with estimations of resource potential in these environments. Lithium is an increasingly important commodity for alternative energy technology. This research will focus on brine resources at Clayton Valley in southwest Nevada and on clay resources at McDermitt Caldera in north-central Nevada.

Adriana Heimann of East Carolina University will investigate the formation of granitic pegmatite deposits that contain lithium and rare earth elements. Particular focus will be placed on understanding the variability of mineral compositions in barren versus metal-rich deposits. This study is expected to provide a clearer understanding of the conditions under which these types of deposits formed and help in identifying where these deposits may occur.

Craig Lundstrom and Thomas Johnson of the University of Illinois will help in understanding the formation of uranium deposits found in sandstone units and provide a means to assess their uranium resource concentration. Research will look at the character of uranium in groundwater to better understand the process that leads to formation of uranium deposits in sandstone. These types of deposits are the most common uranium deposits in the United States, and this study will focus on characterizing current conditions in an active sandstone aquifer system in Texas.

Thomas Monecke and colleagues at the Colorado School of Mines will research the three-dimensional variations in rock compositions found in sandstone-hosted uranium deposits using state-of the-art technology. Research will be conducted at the Lost Creek uranium deposit in south-central Wyoming. Findings are expected to help develop new means to direct exploration and assessment of these deposits.

William Lassetter, Jr., of the Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources will help identify the potential for concealed phosphate resources along Virginia’s coastal plain. Research will look at the characteristics of rock layers in Virginia, and findings are expected to be applicable to identifying the phosphate resource potential along other regions of the eastern U.S. coastal plain.

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