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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan 1 Framework for the Study CONTEXT Over the past 150 years, mineral production in the United States has had a dramatic effect on the economy, westward expansion and statehood, land-use patterns, environmental quality, and lifestyles of the nation and its citizens. Since the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was established in 1879, it has been actively involved in mineral issues. The first Director of the USGS, Clarence King, emphasized geologic research to support the discovery and development of mineral deposits to meet the growing national demand for mineral resources. U.S. mineral demand in 1996 is vastly greater than it was in 1879 and thus the needs emphasized by Director King remain relevant. However, beginning in the early 1970s, demands for environmental protection have grown. As the nation's population has increased, so also has the difficulty of choosing among and managing competing land uses. Today, there is an expanding awareness of the potential environmental consequences of unmitigated mineral exploration and development. To meet the widening scope of mineral resource issues, geoscience studies have become increasingly complex and interdisciplinary. In making land-use decisions it may be necessary to make trade-offs among potentially competing objectives—such as mineral development, wilderness designation, and recreation—that are difficult to articulate and even more difficult to measure quantitatively. Congress directed the USGS to prepare a program plan for its mineral resource activities. The House Appropriations Committee report accompanying the fiscal year 1995 appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior states:
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan The Committee directs the Survey to prepare a program plan that explains the objectives and implementation strategies of the Mineral Resource Surveys budget sub-activity. The program plan should address the interrelationships among the resource assessment, environmental investigation, research, and information components of the program; should identify the major users of mineral resource information developed by the Survey; should provide a thorough explanation of how the Survey' s research is provided to and utilized by other federal agencies to manage the nation's lands and resources; and should provide estimated expenditures for the principal activities for which the Survey undertakes research (House Report 103-551, p. 42). The U.S. Geological Survey has completed the Mineral Resource Surveys Program (MRSP) Plan requested by Congress, herein referred to as the Plan (Appendix A). The five-year Plan outlines changes in direction of the USGS mineral resource activities that reflect new priorities in the post-Cold War era. The Plan represents a significant departure from the past, and implementation of the Plan is resulting in significant changes in the direction of USGS mineral resource activities. The MRSP Plan suffers from the fact that it was formulated and evaluated during a period of major transition within the USGS. The transition involved significant staff reductions, a major reorganization of the Geologic Division, shifts in program emphasis, leadership changes, and reductions in analytical facilities. Figure 1-1 shows that staffing levels in the USGS's Geologic Division have dropped by 43 percent since 1985, with the sharpest decrease in the past two years. The MRSP staff has been reduced by an even larger percentage than that of the Geologic Division. In the past two years alone, the MRSP staff has fallen by 49 percent, from 511 full time equivalents in FY 1994 to 260 in FY 1996. The U.S. Bureau of Mines was closed and its minerals information activities were transferred to the USGS. The National Biological Service is being merged with the USGS. Some of these organizational changes have had a great negative impact on the morale of MRSP employees and on their ability to successfully execute the Plan. The
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 1-1 Staffing levels in the USGS's Geologic Division and MRSP. Since 1994, the Geologic Division staff has dropped by about 27 percent and the MRSP staff has fallen by 49 percent. SOURCE: Eaton, 1996, and unpublished data provided by the USGS.
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan changes present new opportunities and challenges that need to be reflected in the planning elements. CHARGE TO THE PANEL The USGS requested that the National Research Council (NRC) evaluate the Plan and recommend improvements. The charge to the NRC consists of two separate objectives, each with subordinate questions: Evaluate the Plan of the Mineral Resource Surveys Program in terms of the nation's long-term needs for minerals research and information, the completeness and balance of the program, and the scientific significance, credibility, and relevance of the overall program. Does the Plan address the nation's needs in mineral resources, both present-day and long-term? What are the appropriate roles and responsibilities, and who are the appropriate customers for the USGS MRSP? Does the USGS MRSP duplicate the activities of other federal programs with responsibilities related to mineral resources? Are the program priorities, products, and audience appropriate to the goals and objectives of the Plan? Are the level, scope, and balance of research in the Plan sufficient to provide a scientific basis for informed decision-making and to build a scientific foundation for the future? Provide recommendations as to how the Plan could be modified to improve its effectiveness in meeting the long-term needs of the nation. What are future research needs, activities, and opportunities? What criteria should be established to evaluate the appropriateness and priority of suggested MRSP activities? What areas of scientific expertise will be needed by the MRSP to effectively respond to future issues?
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan This report addresses the objectives and questions in the following manner. Chapter 2 evaluates the MRSP Plan and makes recommendations for the four subprograms. Chapter 3 provides General Recommendations for the entire MRSP. The specific questions presented above are addressed throughout the report, and Appendix C is a guide to sections in the report where responses to specific questions can be found. DESCRIPTION OF THE MRSP PLAN The MRSP Plan contains a set of activities designed “to describe the occurrence, quality, and quantity of mineral-resources, to understand the fundamental processes that create and modify them, and to develop predictive models that provide understanding of the nation's mineral-resource endowment and the potential environmental consequences of its development” (MRSP Plan, p. 1). The Plan does not address oil, gas, coal, or nuclear fuels as these energy resources are covered by other USGS and Department of the Interior programs. Implementation of the Plan is resulting in major changes in the direction of USGS mineral resource activities. 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. Research supporting mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of resources. Assessments of aggregate, sand and gravel resources needed for urban development and renewal of the nation's infrastructure. Timely, useful, and efficient transfer of minerals information to diverse users. Research and information activities in the Plan are proposed to be conducted under four complementary, interrelated subprograms: (1) Assessments, (2) Mitigation Studies, (3) Resource Investigations, and (4) Information and Technology Transfer. The executive summary of the Plan (Appendix A) provides a brief explanation of the four subprograms, and
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan additional information is provided in Chapter 2. Each subprogram is divided into components, and each component is further divided into elements (Figure 1-2). The budgets for the subprograms and components are shown in Table 1-1 and Figure C of Appendix A. The most significant changes are an increase in the budget for the Mitigation Studies Subprogram and a decrease in the budget for the Resource Investigations Subprogram. The budgets for the remaining two subprograms—Assessments and Information and Technology Transfer—show little change. The four subprograms are designed to reflect perceived national needs, and funding is readjusted annually within the MRSP in order to better address the major minerals issues facing the nation. The Plan is presented as a framework for fundamental research and applied scientific projects to be conducted over the next five years. Potential new projects will be evaluated as to consistency with the goals of the MRSP. GEOLOGICAL SURVEYS AND NATIONAL MINERALS NEEDS Most nations have government-supported geological agencies, commonly referred to as geological surveys, that are counterparts of the Geologic Division of the USGS. The common denominator in the missions of the major national geological surveys is the provision of geoscience information needed by nations to aid in managing resources, ensuring environmental quality, contributing to economic development, and promoting the safety and security of their citizens. Most national geological surveys are undergoing major changes in response to pressures to reduce costs and make their programs more relevant to societal needs (Appendix D). Although there are differences in emphasis and priority among mission components, the provision of information needed for the assurance of an adequate supply of mineral resources remains central to the missions of most national geological surveys. The mission of the USGS is to provide information that will: mitigate losses resulting from national disasters; help manage the nation's water, energy, and mineral resources;
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan TABLE 1-1 Budget for MRSP subprograms and components based on FY 1995 appropriation (in millions of dollars). YR1 YR2 YR3 YR4 YR5 Assessments Subprogram Resource and Environmental Assessments 20.61 20.16 19.71 19.26 19.26 Assessment Protocols and Methods 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.90 Total 21.51 21.06 20.61 20.16 20.16 Mitigation Studies Subprogram Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines 2.24 2.69 3.14 4.03 4.03 Studies in Support of Remediation 2.69 2.69 2.69 3.14 3.14 Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits 4.03 4.48 4.93 4.93 4.93 Total 8.96 9.86 10.76 12.10 12.10 Resource Investigations Subprogram Mineral-Resource Frontiers 3.58 3.36 2.91 2.24 2.24 Minderal-Deposit Studies 3.14 2.91 2.69 2.24 2.24 Cooperative Industry and International Investigations 0.45 0.45 0.67 0.90 0.90 Total 7.17 6.72 6.27 5.38 5.38 Information and Technology Transfer Subprogram Data Bases and Information Analysis 4.93 4.93 4.93 4.48 4.48 Information and Technology Transfer 2.24 2.24 2.24 2.69 2.69 Total 7.17 7.17 7.17 7.17 7.17 Mineral Resource Surveys Program Total 44.81 44.81 44.81 44.81 44.81 SOURCE: MRSP Plan, Appendix B.
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 1-2 Organization of the (a) Assessments Subprogram; (b) Mitigation Studies Subprogram; (c) Resource Investigations Subprogram; and (d) Information and Technology Transfer Subprogram. SOURCE: U.S. Geological Survey, 1995.
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan enhance and protect the quality of the environment; and contribute to the nation's economic and physical development; thereby improving the safety, health, and well-being of the people (USGS mission statement, Appendix E). Although the MRSP is most closely associated with the second bullet of the USGS mission statement (“help manage the nation's water, energy, and mineral resources ”), it is important to note that the program also addresses other elements of the USGS mission statement. For example, the Mitigation Studies Subprogram is directly relevant to the third bullet (“enhance and protect the quality of the environment”), and both the Assessments Subprogram and the Resource Investigations Subprogram are relevant to the fourth bullet (“contribute to the nation's economic and physical development”). The MRSP is only a small part of the USGS. It is a focus of scientific concentration within a universe of interlocking and interdependent scientific activities. Just as there are no discrete boundaries within the earth sciences, there are no discrete scientific boundaries that separate the MRSP from other programs within the USGS. Thus, in evaluating the Plan, the panel was cognizant that the MRSP is not a stand-alone program. A starting point for considering national needs for mineral resource research and information is the recognition that the United States is an important producer and consumer of minerals (Sidebar 1.1). As a consequence, the country faces important decisions involving the supply of raw materials, land use, and environmental protection. Land management agencies develop land-use plans that attempt to reconcile competing land-use alternatives, while recognizing the environmental implications of each. The development of mineral deposits requires environmentally sound methods of exploration and extraction, and mineral development increasingly must be balanced with alternative land-use considerations. Our ability to make informed decisions about these issues depends on having current, accurate, and unbiased scientific information on known and potential mineral resources, and on the environmental implications of their development. In the broadest sense,
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan SIDEBAR 1.1 U.S. Mineral Production The United States is an important producer and consumer of minerals. Consumers generally obtain resources on the world market as cheaply as possible. Numerous natural, technical, economic, and political factors dictate where mining occurs—in which geologic province, in which climatic or ecological environment, and within which political boundary. A disproportionately large share of world production of any mineral commodity comes from a few very large deposits. The United States is fortunate in possessing a number of these large deposits commonly referred to as giant or world-class deposits. The U.S. possesses giant ore deposits of copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, zinc, and other commodities, particularly in the western states and Alaska. Domestic resources throughout the country supply much of U.S. needs for many metals and most construction raw materials; some metals, such as aluminum, manganese, and tungsten, come primarily from foreign ores (Figure 1-3). The magnitude of the U.S. mineral industry is illustrated by both production and exploration activities. For example, the U.S. currently produces approximately 20 percent of the total copper mined in the world (Figure 1-4). Essentially all this production, plus copper recovered through recycling and a relatively small amount of net imports, is needed to meet domestic demands for refined copper (U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995a). The U.S. also produces a large amount of gold with an annual gross value of more than $4 billion. Production in recent years has far outstripped that of any previous gold rush (Figure 1-5). The U.S. currently produces approximately 14 percent of the annual world production (Figure 1-4). This production not only meets domestic demands, it also provides for exports (U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995b). The value of construction raw materials significantly exceeds the value of metals produced in the United States. In 1994, construction sand and gravel, crushed stone, and cement were produced from over 10,000 extractive operations (U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995a). Because of high costs for transporting rock products from quarries to construction sites, sources tend to be local. All 50 states have sand and gravel
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan quarries and most have stone quarries that meet local and regional demands. Exploration for mineral resources in the United States continues at a high level and major discoveries continue to be made. Recent examples include the Goldstrike and Pipeline gold deposits in Nevada, the Red Dog zinc deposit in Alaska, and significant additions to known ore bodies at the Morenci and Ray copper deposits in Arizona and the Chino copper deposit in New Mexico. Figure 1-6 illustrates U.S. and worldwide exploration expenditures from 1991 to 1995. The development of new favorable mineral exploration and mining statutes in several foreign countries, the recognition of underexplored favorable geological terranes outside the United States, and increasingly restrictive mining and environmental statutes in the United States have encouraged many companies to increase operations abroad. As the favorable terranes are explored and international statutes become more uniform, the United States can be expected to regain a higher proportion of exploration expenditures. the nation requires an unbiased federal agency to provide reliable information on mineral resources to: promote wise land-use management, promote public health and safety, preserve and improve environmental quality, assure resource supply and contribute to national security, and sustain prosperity and improve the quality of life. APPROPRIATE FEDERAL FUNCTIONS IN MEETING NATIONAL MINERAL NEEDS Responding to its charge, the panel first identified three specific functions of a minerals program it considers appropriate for the MRSP. The first is to supply unbiased information related to mineral resources. Such information is useful to federal and state agencies in carrying out their regulatory and administrative responsibilities. Although state
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 1-3 U.S. net import reliance for selected mineral commodities(data from U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995a).
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 1-4 U.S. production and exploration as percentages of world totals in 1994: (a) copper production (data from U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995a), (b) gold production (data from U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995b), and (c) nonfuel mineral exploration (data from Metals Economics Group, 1995).
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 1-5 Historic U.S. gold production (modified from Dobra and Thomas, 1995).
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan FIGURE 1-6 Worldwide and U.S. nonfuel mineral exploration expenditures for selected companies, modified from Metals Economics Group (1995), which estimated that the 154 companies represented by these data account for approximately 75 percent of worldwide exploration.
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan geological surveys play an important role in generating and disseminating information related to mineral resources, the federal government has a unique role in addressing issues of national jurisdiction and significance. The information is also useful to the private sector in fostering mineral exploration and development, and in planning for environmental protection. However, the private sector is unlikely to develop this basic information because the cost can not be justified. Furthermore, much information generated by the private sector is customarily proprietary and unavailable for public use. A second function is advisory, whereby scientific advice and analysis are provided to other government agencies, such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, to help meet their needs for mineral resource information on lands they administer. The USGS has carried out such an advisory role for many years and is widely respected for its balanced advice and the scientific integrity of its information and interpretations. A third function involves the conduct of basic research on mineral resources. Research is the basis on which the other two functions, advice and information, are founded. In addition, basic research addresses the strategic needs of a nation by investigating resources that are uneconomic today but are technically recoverable if needed in the event of a crisis. Basic research would undoubtedly be underfunded if left solely to the private sector, in part because the returns on investments in basic research are not necessarily captured by the organization that conducts the research. Commonly, basic research benefits society at large and public funding is necessary to prevent underinvestment in research. Many nations have found that public investments in research on mineral resources is best accomplished through a combination of efforts conducted by universities and by government agencies that have national jurisdiction, long-term continuity, large and multidisciplinary teams of scientists, and highly specialized facilities. Many state geological surveys conduct basic research on mineral resources which complements the work of USGS. All three functions are considered legitimate responsibilities for a federal agency, such as the USGS. A variety of other federally managed options for these functions are available, at least in principle, including government grants or contracts to universities, private firms or state agencies, and tax incentives to stimulate industrial research. The
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan existence of such functions in geological surveys worldwide, however, suggests that these functions are widely considered to be appropriate for national governments. The balance among these functions will depend on user requirements and will vary over time (Appendix D).
Representative terms from entire chapter: