The agency partners with six state surveys to map potential locations of critical minerals such as gallium, germanium, and rare earths.
In the 1980s, geophysical data by the NASA/U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) satellite Magsat revealed a magnetic anomaly in Earth’s crust beneath Tennessee and Kentucky. The area has numerous mineral resource deposits around its edges, but airborne geophysical data is just as old as the discovery. To gain more advanced knowledge of the area and locate possible additional critical mineral deposit locations, the USGS partners with six state surveys adjacent to the area to collect airborne magnetic and radiometric data.
According to the agency, the $3.5 million effort is part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, aptly named Earth MRI, which provides $320 million over five years through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the U.S. economy and critical minerals supply chains.
Among others, the critical minerals of interest are the technology metals gallium and germanium, used for fiber optics and optical devices, and rare earth elements used in high-performance magnets.