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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program
science and information that foster the development of mines and metallic mineral resources in the United States? Such a focus would place considerable emphasis on fundamental ore deposit research, including mapping of known ore districts, to aid the exploration and discovery of domestic mineral deposits. Or should MRP activities be broader (as they are today) to include nonmetallic resources such as industrial minerals and construction aggregates?
On the other hand, the MRP might define its scope of activities around the entire life cycle of minerals, rather than focusing primarily on scientific understanding and discovery of mineral deposits. In other words, focus on science and information important for understanding and developing public policy for the broader context of minerals development. This life-cycle scope would include purely geological investigations and fundamental ore-deposit research, but it also would embrace multidisciplinary work (environmental, geochemical, geophysical, geobiological) and investigations into, for example, environmental aspects of minerals development, waste disposal, recycling of mineral-based materials, and material flows throughout the mine life cycle, including mine closure and environmental management in perpetuity.
Another view of MRP activities might take as a starting point the relationship between mineral resources and sustainable development. The MRP could define the scope of its activities around the economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development—that is, activities facilitating both sustainable supplies of mineral resources over the longer term and appropriate environmental quality associated with their development. If the MRP frames its vision, mission, and strategy around “sustainable development,” it would be essential that the MRP adopt a clear definition. When applied to mineral resources, sustainable development is often represented as the desire that mineral resources be developed and used in ways that appropriately protect the natural environment and that adequate attention be given to the potential social consequences of minerals development.
However the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) decides to define resources, it should take into account recent reviews of these definitions made by the mining industry, regulators, and international equivalents of the USGS in Australia, South Africa, Canada, and other countries.