USGS study highlights resource potential in the western U.S.
The U.S. Geological Survey has published a new study of mineral potential in previously untapped deposits, mining tailings, and existing mines in the western United States. This study will allow scientists to assess the resource potential of the country better. The critical minerals studied include gallium, germanium, tellurium, and tungsten, in addition to the platinum group metals.
For many of the raw materials mentioned, the United States is almost entirely dependent on imports, according to the researchers. Based on the study results, the USGS concludes that the U.S. could reduce or even eliminate its import dependencies for germanium and the platinum group metals, among others, primarily through more efficient extraction in copper production and mining of previously untapped deposits. Copper deposits contain some of these critical raw materials, some of which are byproducts of mining and refining but are often not extracted due to inefficiencies. However, particularly in the context of the recently enacted Chinese export restrictions on gallium and germanium, this could make the U.S. more self-reliant. At the same time, however, the scientists emphasize that new or improved extraction methods and technologies would have to be developed for this purpose.
The study is part of a large-scale effort by the USGS to quantify and map the mineral resources of the United States. This effort includes collecting data through survey aircraft, which was done in the Midwest earlier this month. A similar study has also been conducted as part of an EU initiative in Europe, again to map the resource potential of previously undiscovered mineral deposits.