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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan
The United States is continually faced with important decisions regarding the use of Federal lands, environmental protection, and supply of mineral raw materials. The Nation's 740 million acres of public lands have been, and are likely to continue to be, a source for a large share of U.S. mineral production. Land-managing agencies must develop land-use plans that reconcile competing demands for mining and other human activities, while recognizing environmental values and ensuring the sustainability of resources and natural environments. Thus, the Nation's need for minerals must be balanced with environmentally sound methods for extraction.
Although mineral supplies are currently abundant, new resource development will be necessary as deposits are depleted. Also, future shortages may occur as demand for resources increases, local or regional political instability curtails supplies, and environmental concerns further restrict mining. The United States must continue to monitor global sources of minerals so that possible shortages are anticipated sufficiently in advance to allow alternative sources or materials to be identified and secured. Our ability to make informed decisions concerning land stewardship, mitigation, and mineral supply ultimately depends on having current, accurate, unbiased information on the location, quality, and quantity of mineral resources, and on the environmental consequences of their development.
These national issues are addressed by the U.S. Geological Survey 's (USGS) Mineral Resource Surveys Program (MRSP), which provides objective scientific information to Congress, Federal and State agencies, industry, and the general public on all aspects of mineral resources. In the committee report accompanying the FY 1995 Department of the Interior appropriations bill, the U.S. Congress directed the USGS to develop a program plan for mineral-resource activities. This document presents a comprehensive, balanced, and integrated 5-year plan to address key mineral-resource issues, increase our understanding of the processes that form and destroy mineral deposits, and improve our predictive capabilities to help guide the sustainable development of the Nation's mineral resources and maintain its natural environments. The plan has been reviewed by the USGS, the Department of the Interior, other Federal agencies, and State institutions.
Research activities of the Mineral Resource Surveys Program are conducted under four complementary, issue-related subprograms (fig. A): Assessments, Mitigation Studies, Resource Investigations, and Information and Technology Transfer. These subprograms, although responding to different issues, are interrelated and mutually supporting (fig. B). The program structure is designed to eliminate duplication so that information and knowledge acquired by activities conducted under each subprogram are available to all other subprograms. The subprograms are prioritized into a 5-year plan on the basis of national needs (fig. C), redirecting appropriated funds within the MRSP to better address the major minerals-related issues facing the Nation.
Assessments will remain the core focus of the MRSP (fig. C), reflecting the continued commitment to meeting the priority needs and requests for mineral-resource and mineral-environmental information by Federal land-managing agencies. The USGS works in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (FS), and other Federal agencies, to conduct and coordinate assessment and related earth-science studies on Federal lands, primarily in response to priorities set by the land-managing agencies. Integrated mineral-resource and mineral-environmental assessments provide the agencies with information on known mineral deposits, predict the probable location and quantity of undiscovered mineral resources, and anticipate the kinds of environmental effects that could result from minerals development.