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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program 2 The Mineral Resources Program Today After 1996, the Mineral Resource Surveys Program (MRSP) underwent substantial changes, including a change in name to the Mineral Resources Program (MRP). These changes resulted from several factors, including recommendations made in the 1996 National Research Council (NRC) report, significant decreases in budgetary allocations, and managerial reorganization. The program’s organization changed from subprograms to teams, and the entire U.S. Geological Survey converted to matrix management. This chapter describes the MRP’s current plan, organization, and activities. While the Minerals Information Team is included to a limited extent in this chapter’s discussion, Chapter 4 contains a more detailed evaluation of it. THE MRP’S PRIORITIES 1999 TO 2004 Rather than revise the MRSP plan reviewed in 1996 by the NRC, a new five-year plan, Mineral Resources Program Priorities 1999-2004 (Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002), was drafted. This five-year plan resulted from three events: the 1996 NRC review, transfer of the minerals information function from the former Bureau of Mines, and development of the USGS Geologic Division’s Science Strategy (USGS, 1998a). Priorities emphasized in the plan for the five-
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program year period 1999 to 2004 encompass (a) major improvements to both content and delivery of the MRP’s large data sets and (b) research on the processes through which mineral deposits form and are destroyed. The MRP plan places increased importance on application of the information and technologies derived from minerals research to (a) provide reliable regional, national, and global mineral resource and mineral environmental assessments; (b) understand the influence of mineralizing processes on environmental integrity, systems, public health, and hazards; and (c) provide objective information and analysis to support those who make decisions regarding national security, land use, resource policy, and environmental or public health. The five-year plan is comprised of five primary scientific goals (see Sidebar 2.1) that provide a framework within which the MRP addresses three groups of minerals-related issues—sustainability and societal need, the environment and public health, and the economy and public policy—relating to basic human needs for mineral resources (see Figure 2.1). The MRP five-year plan points to deficiencies in expertise and outlines specific actions to correct these deficiencies: Attract staff with expertise in low-temperature aqueous geochemistry, database development and management, industrial minerals, mineral economics, and GIS and spatial analysis. Obtain expertise in quantitative mineral resources assessment and industrial ecology. Provide training for existing staff to develop skills, knowledge, and expertise consistent with present and future core competency needs. Secure new skills and ideas through permanent and short-term hiring, participation by staff in internal and external educational activities, and partnering with USGS divisions, other agencies, and states. Maintain mineral resources expertise and facilities in the three USGS centers and four field offices. Provide opportunities for staff to move among centers or co-locate with teams from other divisions or agencies to facilitate an exchange of expertise and ideas. The five-year plan anticipates certain actions relating to MRP facilities, namely:
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program SIDEBAR 2.1 MRP Science Goals Goal 1: Understand the geologic setting and genesis of the nation’s mineral resources in a global context, in order to ensure a sustainable supply of minerals for the nation’s future. Goal 2: Understand the influence of mineral deposits, mineralizing processes, and mineral-resource development on environmental integrity, ecosystems, public health, and geological hazards. Goal 3: Provide objective information and analysis related to minerals issues to support those who make decisions regarding national security, land use, resource policy, and environmental or public health and safety. Goal 4: Collect, compile, analyze, and disseminate data and develop and maintain national and international databases for the timely release of information to all users. Goal 5: Apply mineral resources expertise and technologies to nonmineral resources issues. SOURCE: Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002. Maintain and develop facilities to produce timely and high-quality geochemical research and chemical analyses. Conduct and foster geophysical technology development. Support certain computer capabilities. Seek opportunities to share facilities with academia. The five-year plan foresees level funding for existing MRP projects and establishes a goal of finding ways to build new partnerships that will make more effective use of available funds. Cooperative activities across USGS divisional boundaries and between the USGS and other entities are also seen as a way to increase funding. The five-year plan proposes the slowing of certain programs, such as extending the time frame for completing the global mineral resource assessment and the less frequent publishing of certain mineral commodities information, as an approach for effectively operating with level funding and maintaining core competencies (Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002). The five-year plan addresses a number of opportunities for cooperative program efforts that also include reimbursable project development. In summary these opportunities include:
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program FIGURE 2.1 Mineral issues addressed by the MRP. SOURCE: USGS (1998b). Participating with appropriate collaborators and customers in interdisciplinary studies. Continuing to adapt and apply geological methods developed for mineral resource investigations to support other goals and missions of the division and the USGS. Increasing efforts with specialists in human health, toxicology, microbiology, and other life sciences. Providing opportunities for staff to move among centers and co-locate teams from other divisions or federal agencies to implement interprogrammatic activities and exchange expertise and ideas. Reimbursable project development is proposed with foreign countries seeking mineral resources information and with international funding agencies such as the World Bank and foreign banks, requiring mineral environment assessment studies to ensure environmentally sound mining practices before resource development. Reimbursable projects
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program within the United States are proposed to continue for federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Bureau of Reclamation. ORGANIZATION The MRP is the largest program in the geology discipline of the USGS (see Figure 2.2). The bulk of its funding goes to fund work in five teams and the Geology Office of the Alaska Science Center (formerly part of the Western Mineral Resources Team). These teams are the Eastern Mineral Resources Team, the Central Mineral Resources Team, the Western Mineral Resources Team, the Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team, and the Minerals Information Team (MIT). Each team focuses on a different aspect of the program. The Eastern Mineral Resources Team, in Reston, Virginia, includes efforts on mineral resource studies, resources and the environment, resources and the economy, and activities supporting all mineral resources studies, including a spatial data component, which focuses on databases and making data available (http://minerals/usgs.gov/east/projects.html). The Central Mineral Resources Team in Denver, Colorado, follows its historic mission to conduct research on basic understanding of metallic and nonmetallic nonfuel mineral deposits, their geological environments, and processes of formation; to apply this knowledge to assessments of the nation’s nonfuel mineral endowment; and to determine the potential environmental consequences of mineral resource development (http://minerals.cr.usgs.gov/team/aboutus.html). The Central Mineral Resources Team was formed in 1995 by consolidating the former branches of Geophysics, Geochemistry, Central Mineral Resources, and part of the Branch of Resource Analysis. The Western Mineral Resources Team is composed of four offices, Menlo Park, California; Spokane, Washington; Reno, Nevada; and Tucson, Arizona (http://minerals.usgs.gov/west/offices.html). The Western Mineral Resources Team’s projects include, among others, resource assessments, deposit model development, and environmental investigations. Mineral resources activities in Alaska, including new deposit modeling, Alaska data-at-risk, and mineral and environmental assessments, are coordinated through the Alaska Science Center. The Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team in Denver, Colorado, works on new methods in remote sensing,
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program FIGURE 2.2 The MRP organizational structure. SOURCE: Modified from Patrick Leahy, USGS, personal communication, 2002. geophysics, analytical chemistry, and other disciplines for understanding the Earth and applying these methods in interdisciplinary research projects to solve pressing Earth system problems. Finally, the Minerals Information Team was added to the USGS in 1996 after the closure of the Bureau of Mines. This team is based primarily in Reston, Virginia, with the minerals and materials analysis group in Denver, Colorado. This team compiles and publishes production data on U.S. and global mineral commodities. This team was not part of the USGS at the time of the 1996 NRC review and is described in more detail in Chapter 4. BUDGET In 1996 funding for the MRSP was about $43 million. In 2002 overall program funding had increased to about $56 million, with $38 million for base program funding and two congressionally earmarked activities: approximately $16 million for the MIT and about $2 million for the Alaska data-at-risk program (see Figure 2.3). The MRP proposed fiscal
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program FIGURE 2.3 MRP funding for the period fiscal year 1990 to 2003. SOURCE: Data supplied by the USGS. year 2003 budget of approximately $56 million is allocated to the various teams and as administrative overhead as shown in Figure 2.4. Since 1997 the base funding and MIT funding have remained rather constant in nominal dollars. However, despite modest inflation rates over this period, the diminished buying power results in a diminished ability of the program to meet its vision, mission, and program objectives. As noted above, the MRP five-year plan assumes level funding through 2004. STAFFING The number of full-time equivalents in the MRP declined from 510 at the end of 1995 to about 275 by 1996, although 145 new full time equivalents were added with the transferred MIT (see Figure 2.5) (see also Chapter 4). At the end of 1997 the USGS instituted matrix management, in which headquarters personnel are responsible for results relating to long-term planning and regional staff is responsible for project-level planning and decision making (USGS, 2001). This form of management is designed to make personnel more fluid between programs and to
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program FIGURE 2.4 MRP team budget allocations for fiscal year 2003. NOTE: CICT, Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team. “Other” includes funds used for other programs (including the Geology Discipline’s Eastern Earth Surface Processes Team, the Eastern Energy Resources Team, the Central Earth Surface Processes Team, and the Volcano Hazards Team). “Overhead” includes funds for administrative activities and facilities. SOURCE: Data supplied by the USGS. promote interdisciplinary work. Another goal of the matrix management systems is for personnel to develop allegiances to the mission of the organization as a whole, rather than to a specific program (Vasella and Falvey, 2002). However, one result of this choice to manage the
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program FIGURE 2.5 MRP staffing for the period 1985 to 1997. SOURCE: Data supplied by the USGS. programs separately from the personnel doing the work on those programs is that on an annual basis since 1997 the program coordinator has not been able to easily determine the exact number of people actually working within the program. The last figures available indicate that as of 1998 there were approximately 475 full-time equivalents supported by the MRP distributed according to the disciplines in Figure 2.6. The committee was unable to obtain from the MRP information on the number of staff with advanced degrees. The committee learned that a number of senior scientists will be eligible to retire in the next few years and that there is a trend toward younger MRP staff (under age 50) being “survey-centric,” meaning that their only professional experience is with the USGS or MRP specifically. However, no data were made available to support these statements. The Geologic Discipline of the USGS has implemented the Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program, to provide an opportunity for postdoctoral fellows to conduct concentrated research in association with selected members of the USGS staff. This mentoring program has resulted in the hiring of a few young professionals. Core competency is an aspect of staffing and is discussed in Chapter 3.
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program FIGURE 2.6 MRP staff distribution as of 1998. SOURCE: Data supplied by the USGS. PUBLICATIONS Technical publications document the science performed by MRP researchers, make detailed research data and conclusions available to users, and represent the quality of work performed within the MRP. This is also accomplished through the scientific staff’s participation at national and international conferences and meetings. During the period 1996 to 2002, MRP staff published approximately 2,400 publications (not including MIT publications) (Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002). The majority of these publications are in outside refereed journals (33 percent), with another 30 percent as USGS open file reports. The committee was unable to obtain from the MRP information to directly
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program compare the publication record of the program staff in 1996 with that of 2002. Although data collection, compilation, and statistical manipulations are important, minerals science requires more. In order to understand processes, which form the technical basis for decisions and policy, scientists and scientific teams need time to work toward analysis and interpretation, which are synthesized in completed, peer-reviewed reports. In meetings with MRP staff, committee members heard concerns about how costs for publishing USGS open file reports, professional papers, bulletins, and circulars—the USGS’ traditional modes of data dissemination—are passed down to researchers. The staff expects that in the future less research will be published in these traditional and highly respected publications with more research published in outside refereed journals, trade journals, and conference proceedings. While publication in refereed journals validates research quality and is encouraged by the committee, the committee is concerned that, since outside journals are often hesitant to publish large quantities of data, this might lead to less data being published. Committee members also heard concerns that there might be a trend to publish more information as fact sheets. The committee recognizes that fact sheets serve a niche especially for the general public. The USGS may wish to document its success using fact sheets given their inherent value to society. However, fact sheets should not replace publishing in peer-reviewed journals. The reporting of data and the development of scientific reports has always been a tradition of the MRP but may be threatened in times of budget stress and increased orientation to shorter projects. Because the free and open exchange of information and interpretations is critical to the traditions of science generally, the committee believes that trends that place high-quality publications at risk should be resisted if not reversed. Specifically, the committee recommends that comprehensive, minerals-related data and research continue to be published in the USGS’s traditional modes of data dissemination. PROJECTS Projects are a reflection of the program’s goals and objectives. In 1996 mineral resources activities at the USGS focused on issues within
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program the four main subprograms (as described in Chapter 3): resource assessments, environmental impacts of mining, basic research on mineral deposits, and transfer of minerals information. As noted above, MRP activities today are grouped into three categories: environment and public health, sustainability and societal need, and economy and public policy (see Figure 2.1). Current projects in environment and public health focus on ecosystem health, land assessments of abandoned mines, natural and mined mercury and arsenic, and geochemical baselines and backgrounds. In the area of sustainability and societal need, current projects focus on infrastructure resources, assessment methods, national databases, and life-cycle studies of gold and copper. Finally, projects in economy and public policy center on land stewardship, national and international commodity studies, mineral conservation and material flows, and special international studies. The MRP also supports several national technical capabilities, including isotope laboratories, analytical laboratories, regional GIS laboratories, and petrographic and ore microscopy laboratories. Issues related to project selection and evaluation are discussed later in this chapter. Committee members held numerous discussions with staff scientists who believe they are involved in too many projects and have too little time to be scientifically successful in all of them. This fragmentation of effort can create unexpected, longer-term consequences for the performance of the staff, for the quality of MRP work, and for its documentation. The committee is concerned about this fragmentation of staff effort, particularly with respect to project funding to support time and effort for review and finalization of interpretations and reporting. Committee members also heard that there is an apparent increase in the number of short turn-around projects. However, the committee did not have the appropriate data to verify this concern. The global mineral resource assessment project is the second most costly project for fiscal year 2003 (Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002) (see Sidebar 2.2). This assessment began in 2003 as the result of a feasibility study conducted from 1999 to 2002. This project is an assessment of where and how much undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources remain on the planet. Committee members learned from discussions with stakeholders and MRP scientists that, although the assessment may be important, the question is whether it is scientifically valid, accurate, and precise.
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program SIDEBAR 2.2 Global Mineral Resource Assessments The global mineral resource assessment project is a cooperative international effort to assess the world’s undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources. The principal goal of the project is to outline the regional locations and estimate the probable amounts of the world’s remaining undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources to a depth of one kilometer below the Earth’s surface. To perform the assessment, the MRP has conducted a series of international workshops and intends to use regional and global maps and mineral deposit databases. The assessment will be conducted on a regional multinational basis and involve the cooperative participation of national and international geological, mineral resource, academic, industrial, and other organizations. The MRP points to many environmental uses of the global mineral resource assessment, including land use, water availability, quality and use, and environmental impacts of mining. The minerals industry does not use mineral assessments directly to discover new ore deposits but points out the assessments can be used, along with other measures, for long-term land-use planning, coordinating environmental issues and assisting with legal issues. The minerals industry underscores serious limitations of a global minerals assessment, namely the lack of data, issues associated with placing monetary value on deposits, and potential flaws in using existing deposit models to make such assessments. SOURCE: Eastern Mineral Resources, http://minerals.usgs.gov/east/global/index.html; J. A. Briskey, USGS, personal communication, 2002; McKelvey, 2001. The committee concludes that the global mineral resource assessment would benefit from additional collaboration with potential users as well as from an outside review panel, which could provide objective guidance and balance to the assessment. The NRC was not asked to conduct a comprehensive review of the global mineral resource assessment. The committee proposes that the MRP follow the model used by the USGS’s Energy Resources Program. That program’s assessment of U.S. and global oil and gas resources engaged an external review panel organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists to gauge the project’s intended methods and final results (in part the latter were confidential), through criticism and recommendations from the review panel that both improved the methods and added credibility to the results. This committee recommends that an external review panel be inaugurated to gauge meth-
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program ods and results for the global mineral resource assessment and other similar types of assessments. USERS According to the 1996 committee, customers for the program were “First and foremost…the public and elected and appointed officials who represent them” (NRC, 1996). In 1996 the clients and users of MRSP products included federal land management agencies, the mining and quarrying industries, environmental organizations, state geological surveys, state regulatory agencies, local governments, universities, other federal agencies (particularly the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corp of Engineers), and other groups within the USGS, particularly the Water Resources Division and others in geological mapping, energy, and coastal and marine programs. Currently, the MRP divides its user base into five categories that define both the nature of the relationship and the products delivered (see Sidebar 2.3). For example, users may provide financial and/or logistical support and work closely with the USGS to set project goals or may simply use publicly available information. Depending on the category, users may receive reports and information tailored to meet specific customer needs or they may use information that is delivered in a standard format. Because many users of MRP information are federal agency partners that require a range of kinds of information and services from the MRP, a single agency may be included in more than one user category. For example, in 2002 the Bureau of Land Management was a cooperator, collaborator, and client. Many of the clients and customers utilize MIT information and statistics, including the Minerals Yearbook, which is used by representatives of 45 states. Grantees are a special category of users in that they do not actually use MRP research or information but instead are funded by MRP to carry out research projects themselves. Approximately 5 percent of users are grantees.
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program SIDEBAR 2.3 The MRP’s User Base Cooperators—Cooperators fund or provide logistical support for the USGS to produce scientific products or conduct scientific research that fosters the goals and objectives of the program (or have provided support in the past) and directly use program information. Information format is tailored to cooperator needs. Collaborators—USGS works closely with scientific collaborators to produce products required by the collaborators or other clients. In some cases the USGS provides funding for the collaboration. In other cases a separate client provides the funding. Clients—Clients directly use program information that is tailored to their needs. No funds or other program support is provided by clients. Grantee—USGS provides funding for projects conducted by grantees at other federal, state, or local agencies or universities. Customers –Customers use information that is easily and publicly available. The USGS does not specifically tailor the information to meet their needs. There is no exchange of funds or provision of support. SOURCE: Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002. For the purposes of this report all of the above categories will be referred to collectively as “users.” The top three users since 1997 are the federal government, trade associations, and the news media, followed closely by state and local agencies (Table 2.1 and Table 2.2). The most significant increase since 1997 is a 5 percent growth in the number of mining companies listed as MRP users. The committee concludes that the types of users have not changed significantly since 1996, but the number of users has increased by approximately one-third. The committee concludes that the current MRP customer base is appropriate but could be expanded. Future directions for the program are discussed in Chapter 5, including potential areas in which the user base could be expanded.
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program TABLE 2.1 MRP Users (percent by category) User Type 1997 2002 Cooperator 8 7 Collaborator 20 30 Client* 34 28 Grantee 5 5 Customer 34 30 NOTE: Does not include 190 countries and 45 states listed by MRP as clients. SOURCE: Data supplied by the USGS. TABLE 2.2 MRP Users (percent by type) 1997 2002 Federal government agencies 28 23 Environmental/conservation 4 5 Trade associations 20 20 Mining companies 1 6 News media/publishing houses 15 11 Financial institutions 7 6 International organizations 3 2 State/local agencies 13 15 Universities 9 12 SOURCE: Data supplied by the USGS. As discussed above, the MRP five-year plan (Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002) addresses a number of opportunities for cooperative program efforts including reimbursable project development. The MRP response to the NRC’s 1996 general recommendation on increased collaboration is discussed in Chapter 3. SUMMARY In summary, there have been significant changes to the MRP since the 1996 NRC review. Some of these changes occurred in response to the NRC report, while others were set in motion by other influences. The
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Future Challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program MRP is now organized by teams and operates under matrix management. It has developed a new five-year plan (Kathleen Johnson, USGS, personal communication, 2002). The committee is concerned that the fragmentation of staff effort may create unexpected long-term consequences for staff performance, quality of MRP work, and documentation, which could threaten the MRP’s strong tradition for reporting its science.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: