APPENDIXES



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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program APPENDIXES

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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program A Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In 1994, Congress directed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop a program plan for its mineral resource activities. The resulting five-year Mineral Resource Surveys Program (MRSP) Plan (herein referred to as the Plan) represents a significant departure from the past, and its implementation is resulting in significant changes in the direction of USGS mineral resource activities. For example, the Plan highlights the greater emphasis to be placed on mineral-environmental assessments that provide predictions of the environmental consequences of mineral development as one consideration for land-use planning. It also calls for greater emphasis on research supporting mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of mineral resources. The USGS requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct a study to (1) evaluate the MRSP Plan, and (2) provide recommendations as to how the Plan could be modified to improve its effectiveness in meeting the long-term needs of the nation. To conduct a review of the Plan, the NRC convened a panel that has expertise in mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of mineral resources, as well as in genesis, assessment, exploration, and development of mineral resources. The MRSP Plan is a logical and necessary continuation of objectives and programs related to mineral resource studies that began with the establishment of the USGS in 1879. Traditionally, USGS mineral resource activities have advanced understanding of the origin of mineral deposits,

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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program provided the basic geologic information needed for identifying new areas of mineral potential, and facilitated land-use planning by federal and state agencies. Today, the USGS is also conducting research on the environmental consequences of mineral development because the nation’s need for minerals must be balanced with environmentally sound methods for extraction. There are important national needs for mineral resource information that should be provided by the USGS. Moreover, the panel strongly endorses the scientific values of continued mineral resource research. The panel’s confidence in the overall value of the MRSP reflects past mineral resource program successes, the conviction that important resource problems of national relevance will have to be addressed in the future, and the uniqueness of the USGS in terms of technical capability, scope, national jurisdiction, international cooperation, and credibility. The MRSP Plan describes important objectives and means to accomplish them. Among these objectives, the growing emphasis on research on the geochemical behavior of mineral deposits and the environmental implications of their development are properly emphasized. The success of the MRSP Plan will be best measured against clear statements of vision, mission, and objectives. Although implied in the Plan, these planning elements are not clearly stated. The external environment within which the MRSP operates has changed more rapidly and extensively than the program itself. This requires that the MRSP reexamine how it operates, why, and for whom. The MRSP plan was formulated during a period of major organizational changes in the USGS, and these changes should be reflected in the planning elements. The panel identified four general recommendations to improve and help direct future work. In addition, the panel presents a number of detailed recommendations regarding the four subprograms of the MRSP: assessments, mitigations studies, resource investigations, and information and technology transfer. The four general recommendations are: General Recommendation 1: The Plan should be modified to include new, clearly articulated statements of vision, mission, and objectives. General Recommendation 2: To fulfill its mission, the MRSP and its Plan should move away from an organizational culture dominated by self-direction and independent research toward one that also embraces projects developed through collaboration with users.

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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program General Recommendation 3: The MRSP should place more emphasis on maintaining and continuing to develop its core competence in mineral deposit research and minerals-related environmental research in order to anticipate and respond to future national needs for mineral resource information. General Recommendation 4: The MRSP and its Plan should place greater emphasis on improving mechanisms and procedures for comprehensive planning, setting priorities, and evaluating and enhancing performance, particularly through external reviews or advisory panels. The level of funding for MRSP and the balance of funding among its subprograms deserves thorough review by the MRSP staff, users, and collaborative agencies and organizations. The General Recommendations are supplemented by more than twenty specific findings and recommendations about the Plan and the four subprograms that comprise the MRSP. The following issues emerge as significant themes among the specific findings and recommendations: the Plan does not give adequate consideration to the continuing national need for mineral resource supply as a rationale for all aspects of the MRSP; the panel perceives an imbalance between the level of effort placed on quantitative assessment of undiscovered mineral deposits versus the level of effort placed on detailed mapping and data collection; the panel finds that basic research on geochemical and geological processes related to ore formation is a prerequisite for credible mineral resource estimates and environmental assessments; the panel recommends substantive changes in the Mitigation Studies Subprogram. SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS Specific Recommendation A: The MRSP should incorporate data and invite expertise from outside the USGS, to the greatest extent practical and constructive, particularly from industry, academia, and state agencies. Specific Recommendation B: The MRSP should rigorously document the specific contributions and impacts of past resource assessments related to land-management decisions. The panel strongly recommends

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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program that the MRSP publish a single document, written for the lay audience, which documents, explains, and discusses the usefulness of mineral resource assessments and their applications in land management. Specific Recommendation C: Mineral resource assessments should be performed more efficiently, and the cost-savings should be directed to more fundamental investigations in other subprograms of the MRSP. Specific Recommendation D: Merge two components of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, namely, (1) Studies in Support of Remediation, and (2) Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits, into the Resource Investigations Subprogram. Specific Recommendation E: Elevate the Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines component to subprogram status. Emphasize such elements as Discrimination Between Natural and Mining-Related Geochemical Distributions, to reflect the growing national and international importance of this activity. Specific Recommendation F: Increase collaboration with WRD staff to address such issues as chemical releases from mineral deposits, acid drainage prediction, and metal leaching. Specific Recommendation G: Discontinue activities directed at the adaptation and improvement of remedial technologies, a part of the Studies in Support of Remediation component. Specific Recommendation H: Use a multi-disciplinary approach to determining geochemical backgrounds and baselines by collaborating with other scientists such as microbiologists, soil scientists, aqueous geochemists, sedimentologists, hydrologists, and aquatic biologists. Specific Recommendation I: Merge two components of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, namely, (1) Studies in Support of Remediation, and (2) Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits, into the Resource Investigations Subprogram. Specific Recommendation J: Revitalize the core competence to conduct basic and applied research on mineral deposits under the Resource Inves-

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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program tigations Subprogram, which provides essential information for other MRSP subprograms and numerous users. Specific Recommendation K: Continue basic research conducted under two components in the Resource Investigations Subprogram—Mineral-Resource Frontiers and Mineral-Deposit Studies—such as low-temperature chemistry of water-rock interaction, timing of ore-forming processes, origin of giant ore deposits, and ore deposit evolution as related to continental reconstruction. Specific Recommendation L: Evaluate the feasibility of replacing the Cooperative Industry and International Investigations element with a CRADA system, whereby industrial and foreign government users would provide funding toward needed MRSP research. Specific Recommendation M: The MRSP should be empowered, within budgetary limitations, to conduct selective mineral-deposits research in foreign terranes. Specific Recommendation N: The Plan should place greater emphasis on internal consistency and standardization in all aspects of databases and technology transfer. Specific Recommendation O: The Plan should be modified to include activities recently transferred from the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) to the USGS. Specific Recommendation P: The Plan should not take on the task of software development for GIS technology but assign that responsibility to other departments in the USGS or obtain products from private vendors.

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