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USGS investing more than $5.8M in critical-minerals mapping in Alaska

The US Geological Survey (USGS) will invest more than $5.8 million to map critical-mineral resources in Alaska in partnership with the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

The funding comes largely from a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investment in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), which provides more than $74 million in new mapping funding each year to modernize the understanding of the US’ fundamental geologic framework and improve knowledge of domestic critical-mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine waste.

Overall, this act invests $510.7 million through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the nation’s supply chains, national defense and economy.

The Earth MRI investments will enable airborne geophysical surveys of the poorly mapped Kuskokwim River region of western Alaska. This region was chosen by the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys and the USGS for its critical-mineral potential, including commodities such as antimony, cobalt, gold, rare earth elements, tin, tungsten and other minerals. The new airborne geophysical survey will also support future geologic mapping efforts in the Kuskokwim River region of Alaska.


Map of the Kuskokwim River watershed. Credit: Kmusser

In addition, these funds include grants to the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys to conduct geologic mapping in the Chena portion of the Yukon-Tanana region of east-central Alaska, building on earlier Earth MRI geophysical data collection and USGS research.


Source: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

The critical-mineral commodities that are included in the research projects in Alaska are:

  • Arsenic: used in lumber preservatives, pesticides and semi-conductors

  • Antimony: used in flame-proofing compounds, alloys and batteries

  • Bismuth: used in medical and atomic research

  • Cobalt: used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys

  • Graphite: used for lubricants, batteries and fuel cells

  • Indium: mostly used in LCD screens

  • Platinum group metals: used for catalytic agents

  • Rare earth elements: primarily used in magnets and catalysts

  • Tantalum: used in electronic components, mostly capacitors

  • Tellurium: used in steelmaking and solar cells

  • Tin: used as protective coatings and alloys for steel

  • Tungsten: primarily used to make wear-resistant metals


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