Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 23
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan 2 Evaluation of the MRSP Plan and Recommendations for Subprograms INTRODUCTION The panel commends the MRSP Plan for the comprehensiveness and relevance of its subprograms. The panel is cognizant of the successes and reputation of the USGS in mineral resource science. USGS research on mineral deposits has attracted some of the finest geoscientists in the nation, and they have built a reputation for scientific excellence in both the national and international community. The MRSP Plan is a logical and necessary continuation of objectives and ideas 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, 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 scientific research on the environmental consequences of mineral development because the nation's need for minerals must be balanced with environmentally sound methods for extraction. The panel believes that there are national needs for mineral resource research and information that should be met by a federal geological agency (see discussion in Chapter 1), specifically the USGS's MRSP. The panel's confidence in the overall value of the MRSP reflects past program successes, the conviction that 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 scientific contributions of the USGS mineral resource studies are many. Striking examples include the mineral deposits research that
OCR for page 24
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan has led to the characterization of major deposits in the United States (and overseas), and understanding of ore-forming processes. The USGS has produced excellent descriptions of ore deposits that have proved useful for environmental mitigation and remediation of abandoned mine lands, as well as for mineral exploration. Mineral resource assessments and mineral-environmental assessments conducted by the MRSP also have contributed to land use decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which together are responsible for managing approximately 740 million acres of federal lands. The MRSP Plan contains subprograms and components that have the potential to achieve results that are as significant as past accomplishments of the MRSP and its forerunners. 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 in response to weathering and the environmental implications of their development are properly emphasized. ASSESSMENTS SUBPROGRAM Mineral resource and related mineral-environmental assessments are appropriate activities for the federal government and specifically for the MRSP of the USGS. In simplest terms, a mineral resource assessment estimates the quantity of undiscovered mineral resource that is expected to occur within a designated area. The general uses of these assessments, primarily by the federal and state land management agencies, are well documented in the MRSP Plan and were confirmed by numerous presentations to the panel. Initially, national and regional resource assessments were driven by concerns for strategic mineral supply as related to national security and by the need to stimulate domestic exploration for particular commodities, such as uranium. In recent years, mineral resource assessments have been driven increasingly by concerns for land management. In addition, the need to understand the environmental consequences of mineral resource development places new demands on the Assessments Subprogram.
OCR for page 25
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan The panel respects the USGS for responding to the needs of the federal land-management agencies to understand environmental consequences of mineral resource development. Nonetheless, the panel notes that the rationale in the MRSP Plan for continued mineral resource assessments does not include the important aspect of mineral resource supply as a continuing, legitimate national need. Evaluation of Components Resource and Environmental Assessments Component The panel understands the rationale presented in the MRSP Plan for building on traditional mineral resource assessments to incorporate environmental data and interpretations. However, it is not clear from the MRSP Plan how this process will be accomplished, nor is it clear what exact relationships will exist between the traditional resource assessments and the new mineral-environmental assessments. For example, the Plan calls for a prototype National Mineral-Environmental Assessment for selected deposit types to be undertaken in FY 1999 and 2000. The panel is concerned about the potential uses of this assessment because of the lack of clarity regarding the level of detail that will be employed in the work and the map scale to be used in the presentation of results. Insufficient detail and inappropriate map scales may leave the predictive aspects of the assessments vulnerable to legitimate scientific criticism. This concern also is identified in the following evaluation of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, and is a topic that the proposed advisory panel, suggested in General Recommendation 4, could help to resolve. Users of mineral resource assessments who addressed the panel repeatedly stressed their needs for detailed geologic maps (at scales of 1:24,000 to 1:100,000), descriptions of known ore deposits, geochemical sampling, geophysical surveys, and other basic geoscience data. Such data are also particularly attractive to many other customers, including industry and academia. Geologic mapping at scales of 1:24,000 to 1:100,000 generally provides the context that is necessary to identify major hydrothermal systems, geologic structures, and types of ore deposits that occur in a
OCR for page 26
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan given area. Such detailed investigations are the hallmark of classic USGS studies of mineral districts, such as Terlingua (Yates and Thompson, 1959), Mother Lode (Knopf, 1929), and Comstock (Becker, 1882). However, many recent USGS mineral resource assessments have lacked this level of detail, and uncertainties remain regarding locations of areas permissible for the occurrence of different types of ore deposits. Industry routinely conducts detailed geologic mapping at scales of 1:10,000 and larger to help identify specific targets for explorations drilling and to help design mining plans. In its role of assessing mineral resources and in beginning to address the environmental consequences of extracting these resources, however, the USGS (and the land management agencies) needs geologic and alteration mapping scales generally in the range of 1:24,000 to 1:100,000. In the case of mineral-environmental assessments, it is likely that the insufficient scientific detail of investigations will not support the large map scale at which the National Assessments are to be presented. Therefore it seems logical for the MRSP staff to accumulate experience and data on specific sites before attempting to conduct such assessments at a national level. The recent MRSP work at Summitville, Colorado provides an example of useful site-specific investigations. Similar issues of map scale have been confronted by the USGS's National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA), and it may be useful for MRSP and NAWQA to address these issues jointly. The panel is concerned that the MRSP Plan does not discuss in detail the linkages and possible overlaps between work on mineral-environmental assessments and the Mitigation Studies Subprogram—in particular, how geoenvironmental models and baseline geochemistry will be formulated into environmental assessments. According to the Plan, a geoenvironmental model for a given type of mineral deposit characterizes the environmental behavior of rocks, soils, sediments, and waters prior to mining. It also describes and predicts the environmental effects likely to result from mining and processing of metals from such a deposit— the character and size of mine workings, the character and mass of waste products, and the processes of their interactions with the environment. At present, geoenvironmental models are available for only a few deposit types. Recognizing that the MRSP staff will be developing protocols for mineral-environmental assessments over the
OCR for page 27
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan next five years, the panel urges that the MRSP staff pay particular attention to the known variability in ecological, mineralogical, geochemical, geographic, and climatic parameters that exist among individual deposits within a particular ore deposit type. The unique characteristics of individual deposits make the predictive aspect of mineral-environmental assessments risky, particularly at regional scales. For example, a mineral deposit in a mountainous region with high precipitation may present very different environmental issues compared to a similar deposit in an arid region with low relief. This is another topic on which the proposed advisory panel (General Recommendation 4) could be helpful. One of the most significant changes in the Plan is a “greater emphasis on assessments of non-metallic resources (such as sand, gravel, and construction aggregate) needed for urban development and infrastructure renewal” (p. 11). The fiscal year 1997 USGS budget request includes a major new cross-divisional initiative in this area, and the Plan should be modified to incorporate this significant development. Assessment Protocols and Methods Component The panel recognizes the state-of-the-art status of the USGS three-part quantitative assessment method. It understands the need for continued development of numerical or quantitative techniques. The panel also understands that the development of assessment methodologies should continue as a fundamental or basic research function. However, it is important to maintain an appropriate balance between the needs of users and the level of research and development devoted to quantitative methods. For example, some representatives of federal land management agencies with which the panel met (primarily BLM and USFS) felt that in many cases qualitative assessments (“high–medium–low”) are adequate for their needs. Although this point has been exhaustively debated (Harris and Rieber, 1993; Barton and others, 1995), the panel finds that the uncertainty inherent in estimating the number, tonnage, and value of undiscovered mineral deposits is so high that the costs and time delays resulting from a highly quantitative approach are not always warranted in order to meet the needs of the land managers. The panel recognizes that there may be other needs that
OCR for page 28
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan require quantitative assessments, but these are not articulated clearly in the MRSP Plan. It is important for the staff of the MRSP to understand the nature of the land-management decisions, and for the staff of the land management agencies to understand the strengths, limitations, and uncertainties of the mineral-resource and mineral-environmental assessments. On the basis of interviews with officials from the Forest Service and BLM, the panel finds that some of the requested and special-purpose assessments described in the MRSP Plan may not require quantitative results. Although the panel's sampling of users was limited, the diversity of opinions expressed on quantitative assessments is noteworthy. Users and interested parties must be full participants in assessments beginning with project design and extending through implementation. Understanding customer needs is vital to determining the map scale, level of detail, and methodology for an assessment. Likewise, the customer needs to understand that assessment methodology is evolving with time, and that different approaches have different strengths and limitations. Each assessment should be tailored to the specific customer need or objective. At the same time, the MRSP, with its responsibility to assure quality work products and set standards for consistency and comparability, ultimately must determine and defend the level of scientific effort, including appropriate fundamental studies, needed to support a desired level of confidence for an assessment. The panel recognizes the linkage between the Assessments Subprogram and other subprograms, especially Resource Investigations and Mitigation Studies. Specifically, studies of the origin of mineral deposits conducted by the Resource Investigations Subprogram, and studies of the geochemical behavior of mineral deposits conducted by the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, are required for proper assessments. One of the responsibilities of MRSP scientists and managers is to educate the users of the assessments about the importance and relevance of research on the genesis and geochemical behavior of mineral deposits. For example, a better understanding of the geologic time period(s), structural/tectonic settings, and paleodepths that favor the development of Carlin-type gold deposits would lead to more accurate assessments of gold resources in the Great Basin.
OCR for page 29
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Subprogram Recommendations The panel recommends the following changes and modifications to the Assessments Subprogram: 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. The panel is concerned that the USGS in the past has not incorporated appropriate external data and utilized external expertise in preparation of its assessments. It appreciates the need for the MRSP to maintain rigorous scientific integrity and impartiality in the conduct of resource assessments; nevertheless, the panel finds that external input can be received and used without compromising the assessment process. As a possible model, consider the USGS procedures for oil and gas assessments, which incorporate external expertise in response to recommendations in a 1991 National Research Council report (Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources: An Evaluation of the Department of the Interior's 1989 Assessment Procedures). As was in the case for the USGS oil and gas assessments, it may be possible for the MRSP to obtain valuable guidance from professional societies and state geological surveys at little cost. 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 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. On the basis of testimony from federal land management agencies and others, the panel is concerned that assessments are not proving sufficiently useful in land-use decisions. It is critical to know whether the assessments are serving their intended purpose.
OCR for page 30
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan 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. The panel believes that assessments can be conducted more efficiently and still provide the information required by land management agencies. A good opportunity for improving efficiency seems to be through extensive discussion and planning with users to assure that the appropriate levels of new data collection and numerical estimation are selected for the particular task. Cost-savings achieved through increases in efficiency would enable the MRSP to transfer funds to other subprograms. The panel recognizes the need for investigations into fundamental processes as a basis for assessments (see also General Recommendation 3). Understanding how mineral deposits form in context with their host geological terranes (part of the Resource Investigations Subprogram) is vital to the credibility and accuracy of resource assessments. Similarly, understanding the geochemical behavior of mineral deposits and their impact on the environment, including geochemical backgrounds and baselines (parts of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram), is critical to credible mineral-environmental assessments. The panel recommends that, to the extent feasible, land management agencies be expected to pay for mineral resource and environmental assessments. MITIGATION STUDIES SUBPROGRAM The panel commends the USGS for recognizing the importance of environmental protection and for inclusion of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram in the MRSP. However, the panel finds that the role for the MRSP in mitigation studies is not clear. In addition, certain components of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram are more oriented toward resource investigation than mitigation and might better be part of the Resource Investigations Subprogram (Figure 2-1). There is an appropriate federal role for components and elements of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, provided that the involvement is research-oriented and advisory in nature. There are also appropriate, but non-exclusive, USGS and MRSP roles for components and elements of
OCR for page 31
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 2-1 Proposed structure of the (a) Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines Subprogram, and (b) Resource and Environmental Investigations Subprogram.
OCR for page 32
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan the Mitigation Studies Subprogram. However, universities, industry, and other divisions within the USGS can also contribute to the research-oriented components and elements under this subprogram. Since other federal agencies and industry will be applying the results of research conducted by the Mitigation Studies Subprogram to site-specific remediation problems, closer collaboration with the federal agencies that are charged with managing public lands (e.g., BLM and USFS) would ensure that the Mitigation Studies Subprogram research is meeting their needs (see General Recommendation 2). A broadly based external advisory panel would be able to guide the effective application of MRSP research to environmental issues at mines and other sites (see General Recommendation 4). Environmental behavior of mineral deposits refers to the natural and human-induced impact of mineral deposits on their surrounding environment. The USGS possesses considerable expertise in this field of research, which is increasingly relevant to solving national problems. There is an appropriate but non-exclusive role for the MRSP in this field. Several scientists in the MRSP and Water Resources Division (WRD) of the USGS have expertise in the environmental behavior of mineral deposits, especially as related to water chemistry, Both the MRSP and the WRD depend heavily on the availability of high quality geologic and topographic maps constructed at appropriate map scales. Through a well-defined, cross-divisional partnership with WRD and the USGS National Mapping Division (NMD), and through intradivision partnerships within the Geologic Division (GD), a successful interdisciplinary approach could be undertaken to understand the environmental behavior of mineral deposits. The MRSP could use these partnerships, for example, to improve and enhance aspects of the component Geoenvironmental Models of Mineral Deposits. The panel notes that recent collaborative efforts at Summitville and in the Upper Animas Basin in Colorado provide excellent examples of combined Geologic Division and Water Resources Division research. These studies could serve as a management model for future studies under the MRSP. Other federal agencies charged with resource management could apply the research to mitigation issues affecting public lands.
OCR for page 33
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Evaluation of Components Geochemical Backgrounds and Baseline Component The panel concluded that results from the Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines component of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram will become increasingly important in land use decisions. The Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines component should be elevated to subprogram status to reflect the national importance of this activity (Figure 2-1). Many other national geological surveys, including the Geological Survey of Canada and the British Geological Survey, place strong emphasis on similar types of programs. Information collected under baseline geochemical studies also has significant applications to public health and ecological issues. Baseline geochemical studies would focus on the specific environmental behavior of mineral resources, but would share many underlying similarities with the highly successful National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program in the Water Resources Division of the USGS. Research from both the NAWQA program and the Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines component explores the current state of the environment and provides a standard/measure against which future environmental perturbations—be they natural or anthropogenic —can be compared. In addition, MRSP research in this area will aim at distinguishing between anthropogenic and natural environmental impacts. Development of methods to discriminate between natural and anthropogenic geochemical anomalies associated with mineral deposits deserves a high priority as a research activity. The MRSP Plan places an appropriate emphasis on this field, which is the focus of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram element on Discrimination Between Natural and Mining-Related Geochemical Distributions. This subprogram element could support users in determining sources and concentrations of pre-mining geochemical distributions, and for assigning remediation responsibilities after mining has occurred. Determining geochemical backgrounds and baselines must be a multi-disciplinary effort involving geologists, aqueous geochemists, sedimentologists, hydrologists, and aquatic biologists. In the longer view, this suggested new subprogram could have expanded applications,
OCR for page 34
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan including applications to agriculture, land-use planning, and human health. Studies in Support of Remediation Component The second component of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, Studies in Support of Remediation, contains elements for which the MRSP role is not clearly defined. The USGS staff has little experience in designing or conducting remediation studies. One of the objectives of the Studies in Support of Remediation component is to “investigate the geologic and geochemical processes that affect mining and remediation plans and technologies so that they can be adapted and improved to minimize environmental changes” (MRSP Plan, p. 27). The adaptation and improvement of remedial technologies should be conducted by programs other than the MRSP. Entities such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other federal and state agencies, universities, industry, and consultants could or can more appropriately develop and implement technology-oriented programs. Therefore, in the panel's view, the MRSP role for this component should be reduced to “investigate the geologic and geochemical processes that affect mining and remediation.” Further, this more limited activity properly belongs under the Resource Investigations Subprogram, not the Mitigation Studies Subprogram. Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits Component The panel finds that the third component of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram, Environmental Behavior of Minerals Deposits, should be placed under the Resource Investigations Subprogram (Figure 2-1). The panel suggests that the title of the Resource Investigation Subprogram then be expanded to “Resource and Environmental Investigations ” to reflect the inclusion of this component, which addresses the environmental geochemistry of mineral deposits. The Geoenvironmental Models of Mineral Deposits element of the Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits component has the potential to contribute to the solution of important environmental
OCR for page 35
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan problems. However, the validity of certain geoenvironmental models has been questioned by potential users who gave presentations to the panel. One question concerning the models is that site-specific predictions of the environmental behavior of mineral deposits are not sufficiently accurate using generalized characteristics of mineral deposits. For example, zones of hydrothermal alteration around ore deposits should be mapped in detail (generally at scales of 1:24,000 or larger) before site-specific predictions are made. Improved communication with users will determine the level of detail and appropriate map scale that will improve the utility of these models (see General Recommendation 2). Similar concern regarding map scales is discussed above under Assessments Subprogram Evaluation. Another question about the models concerns the physical and chemical variability among deposits of a particular type and the ability of the models to accurately predict releases of chemical components from mineral deposits. Staff of MRSP and WRD should collaborate to address this issue. Additional joint research efforts in acid drainage prediction and metal leaching by MRSP and WRD scientists will improve the accuracy and validity of the geoenvironmental models (see General Recommendation 4). Subprogram Recommendations The panel recommends the following changes and modifications to the Mitigation Studies Subprogram: 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. A suggested name for this combined subprogram is “Resource and Environmental Investigations Subprogram” (Figure 2-1). Recommendation E Elevate the Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines component to subprogram status. Emphasize such elements as Discrimination Between Natural and Mining-Related Geochemical
OCR for page 36
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Distributions, to reflect the growing national and international importance of this activity. If recommendations D and E are followed, there will no longer be a subprogram entitled Mitigation Studies but there will be a new subprogram entitled Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines (Figure 2-1). Recommendation F Increase collaboration with WRD staff to address such issues as chemical releases from mineral deposits, acid drainage prediction, and metal leaching. Recommendation G Discontinue activities directed at the adaptation and improvement of remedial technologies, a part of the Studies in Support of Remediation component. These activities should be conducted by organizations other than MRSP, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other federal and state agencies, universities, and the private sector. Redirect funds from the Studies in Support of Remediation to fundamental investigations in other parts of the new Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines and Resource and Environmental Investigations Subprograms. 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. A multidisciplinary approach should also be used in other parts of the MRSP where appropriate. RESOURCE INVESTIGATIONS SUBPROGRAM The panel finds that there is an appropriate role for the USGS in the Resource Investigations Subprogram because this research addresses national needs and other research organizations do not have the national jurisdiction, facilities, expertise, and commitment required to conduct research on mineral resources at the necessary scale and scope. The
OCR for page 37
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan MRSP is the logical federal program under which to conduct such research on mineral deposits. This research addresses principally the characteristics and interpretation of mineral deposits. Such research is critical to the success of the mineral resource assessments and studies in support of remediation. USGS publications on mineral resources, including Professional Papers and Bulletins, have provided invaluable information for a multitude of users (e.g., BLM, USFS, industry, state agencies, and academia) for more than a century. Results from basic and applied research under the Resource Investigations Subprogram now provide essential scientific information for components and elements of other subprograms. Examples include Geoenvironmental Models of Mineral Deposits (Mitigation Studies Subprogram), Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines (Mitigation Studies Subprogram), and Resource and Environmental Assessments (Assessments Subprogram). The panel finds that the Resource Investigation Subprogram is an appropriate and important activity, and that the proposed decrease in funding for this subprogram will adversely impact the MRSP and its customers. Evaluation of Components As noted under the Mitigation Studies Subprogram Evaluation, the panel recommends that two components from the Mitigation Studies Subprogram be moved into the Resource Investigations Subprogram. To reflect this change, the panel also suggests that the title of the Resource Investigations Subprogram be expanded to “Resource and Environmental Investigations” (Figure 2-1). Mineral-Resource Frontiers and Mineral-Deposit Studies Components Two components in the Resource Investigations Subprogram represent long-standing USGS contributions to the field of mineral deposits research: Mineral-Resource Frontiers and Mineral-Deposit Studies. The panel strongly endorses undiminished continuation of this basic research. In addition to research opportunities discussed in the MRSP Plan, several grand challenges that might warrant consideration
OCR for page 38
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan are listed in Sidebar 2.1. An external advisory panel should work with MRSP personnel to help select and define research priorities, among these and other topics, that would guide project selection (see General Recommendation 4). Cooperative Industry and International Investigations Component The third component in this subprogram, Cooperative Industry and International Investigations, is designed to be responsive to requests from industry and foreign governments, and it is less oriented toward basic research than the other two components This component shares certain similarities with the Requested and Special Purpose Assessments element of the Assessments Subprogram. The appropriate location for the Cooperative Industry and International Investigations component within the program should be evaluated jointly by an external advisory panel and MRSP personnel (see General Recommendation 4, Chapter 3). One suggestion by the panel is that the Cooperative Industry and International Investigations component be replaced by a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) system, whereby industrial and foreign government users would contribute toward needed MRSP research. The Geological Survey of Canada's (GSC) Industrial Partners Program is a potential model for industry-MRSP joint efforts. The GSC program involves cost-shared research projects that are conducted jointly by GSC and industry partners (Appendix D). The apparent overall reduction in international activities, including information gathering, analysis, and scientific studies is ill-advised. The panel urges reconsideration of these decisions. In some cases, such as research on giant (world-class) ore deposits, it is difficult or impossible to conduct serious investigations without study of global examples. In addition, the acquisition of resource and geological terrane information in foreign countries can provide essential information and expertise that are needed to evaluate and analyze likely global patterns of mineral supply. International research is an important activity of many other national geological surveys.
OCR for page 39
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan SIDEBAR 2.1 Selected Grand Challenges in Mineral Deposit Research Understand the origins of giant ore deposits and their relation to smaller deposits. A disproportionately large share of world production of any mineral commodity comes from a few very large deposits, and the United States is fortunate in possessing a number of these large deposits commonly referred to as giants. Determine the timing and duration of ore-forming and ore-modifying processes. There is great promise for rapid advances in this area of research due to recent advances in analytical techniques. Better information about the timing and duration of ore-forming processes will improve mineral resource assessments and mineral exploration. Understand low-temperature thermodynamics and kinetics of water-rock interactions in order to predict the environmental behavior of mineral deposits. This area of research is relevant to environmental stewardship in active mines and to remediation of abandoned mine sites. Conduct continental reconstruction research that investigates the relations of ore deposits to crustal evolution. This area of research is applicable to mineral assessments and may prove useful for locating buried ore deposits. Subprogram Recommendations The panel recommends the following changes and modifications to the Resource Investigations Subprogram: 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, as recommended in the section on Mitigation Studies (see Recommendation D above). A suggested name for this
OCR for page 40
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan combined subprogram is the “Resource and Environmental Investigations Subprogram.” The rationale for this recommendation is discussed in greater detail in the evaluation of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram. This recommendation is repeated here because it effects both the Mitigation Studies Subprogram and the Resource Investigations Subprogram. Recommendation J Revitalize the core competence to conduct basic and applied research on mineral deposits under the Resource Investigations Subprogram, which provides essential information for other MRSP subprograms and numerous users. A continued decline in funding for this subprogram proposed in the Plan will adversely impact the entire MRSP. For example, research on the origins of mineral deposits and the age of mineralization is required to improve mineral resource assessments. Likewise, an understanding of the low-temperature thermodynamics and kinetics of water–rock interactions is essential to predicting the environmental behavior of mineral deposits. The panel recommends that basic research elements in the MRSP should be emphasized, but internal competition for funds and better priority setting methods should be developed. 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. 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. The Geological Survey of Canada's Industrial Partners Program is a potential model for industry-MRSP joint efforts (Appendix D). This evaluation could be conducted by an external advisory panel (see General Recommendation 4).
OCR for page 41
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Recommendation M The MRSP should be empowered, within budgetary limitations, to conduct selective mineral-deposits research in foreign terranes. Such investigations should be conducted collaboratively with host-country agencies and scientists or as part of multi-partner international scientific programs. It should complement research on mineral resources and geological environments in the United States. INFORMATION AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER SUBPROGRAM Evaluation of Components The panel strongly believes that activities related to information and technology transfer, including both the Data Bases and Information Analysis component and the Information and Technology Transfer component of the MRSP Plan, are appropriate and important for a mineral resource program in the USGS. In particular, the panel commends the MRSP Plan for its goal to make minerals information “easily accessible and in a format for effective use” by its customers. The Plan recognizes the value of digital formats and on-line access to its databases through information networks. Further, the panel commends the Plan for seeking to archive large data sets and make such information available to its users. However, several users who met with the panel stated that the information provided by MRSP is not always in a format that can be easily used, nor is it transferred in a timely manner. This was a particular concern for land management agencies when making land-use planning decisions. The Plan does not adequately address the relationship between the MRSP and USGS technology transfer programs. There is a need for greater internal consistency and standards for databases and technology transfer activities. The panel generally supports the specific objectives of the Plan (see pages 40 and 42), especially developing and maintaining databases in state-of-the-art formats (digital, on-line), facilitating the exchange of
OCR for page 42
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan information with users, providing timely information, and improving understanding by users of the significance and limitations of the information. An exception concerns the second objective of the component on Data Bases and Information Analysis, which is “to develop and improve GIS and other spatial analysis tools for scientific visualization and analysis” (p. 40). The panel is unsure how a minerals program can expect to contribute in this area, which would seem to be a field of active research in the domain of information and software specialists rather than a minerals program. Subprogram Recommendations The panel recommends the following changes and modifications to the Information and Technology Transfer Subprogram: Recommendation N The Plan should place greater emphasis on internal consistency and standardization in all aspects of databases and technology transfer. Presumably the USGS devotes considerable resources to these activities and it is important that MRSP activities complement USGS databases and technology transfer. Recommendation O The Plan should be modified to include activities recently transferred from the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) to the USGS. In particular, the Plan should recognize the value as well as overlaps in the Mine Information Location System (MILS) and Mineral Resource Data System (MRDS) databases. The panel recognizes that the transfer of the USBM minerals information function to the USGS occurred after the MRSP Plan was drafted. Given that this function is logically related to the information and technology transfer subprogram of the MRSP, the Plan should be modified to include these activities. 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. Sources
OCR for page 43
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan outside the MRSP are developing GIS technology and standards more rapidly than the USGS's MRSP.
OCR for page 44
Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan This page in the original is blank.
Representative terms from entire chapter: