Executive Summary

In 1994, Congress directed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop a program plan for its mineral resource activities. The resulting five-year Mineral Resource Surveys Program (MRSP) Plan (herein referred to as the Plan) represents a significant departure from the past, and its implementation is resulting in significant changes in the direction of USGS mineral resource activities. For example, the Plan highlights the greater emphasis to be placed on mineral-environmental assessments that provide predictions of the environmental consequences of mineral development as one consideration for land-use planning. It also calls for greater emphasis on research supporting mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of mineral resources.

The USGS requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct a study to (1) evaluate the MRSP Plan, and (2) provide recommendations as to how the Plan could be modified to improve its effectiveness in meeting the long-term needs of the nation. To conduct a review of the Plan, the NRC convened a panel that has expertise in mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of mineral resources, as well as in genesis, assessment, exploration, and development of mineral resources.

The MRSP Plan is a logical and necessary continuation of objectives and programs related to mineral resource studies that began with the establishment of the USGS in 1879. Traditionally, USGS mineral resource activities have advanced understanding of the origin of mineral deposits, provided the basic geologic information needed for identifying new areas of mineral potential, and facilitated land-use planning by federal and state agencies. Today, the USGS is also conducting research on the environmental consequences of mineral



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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Executive Summary In 1994, Congress directed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop a program plan for its mineral resource activities. The resulting five-year Mineral Resource Surveys Program (MRSP) Plan (herein referred to as the Plan) represents a significant departure from the past, and its implementation is resulting in significant changes in the direction of USGS mineral resource activities. For example, the Plan highlights the greater emphasis to be placed on mineral-environmental assessments that provide predictions of the environmental consequences of mineral development as one consideration for land-use planning. It also calls for greater emphasis on research supporting mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of mineral resources. The USGS requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct a study to (1) evaluate the MRSP Plan, and (2) provide recommendations as to how the Plan could be modified to improve its effectiveness in meeting the long-term needs of the nation. To conduct a review of the Plan, the NRC convened a panel that has expertise in mitigation of environmental impacts related to extraction and use of mineral resources, as well as in genesis, assessment, exploration, and development of mineral resources. The MRSP Plan is a logical and necessary continuation of objectives and programs related to mineral resource studies that began with the establishment of the USGS in 1879. Traditionally, USGS mineral resource activities have advanced understanding of the origin of mineral deposits, provided the basic geologic information needed for identifying new areas of mineral potential, and facilitated land-use planning by federal and state agencies. Today, the USGS is also conducting research on the environmental consequences of mineral

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan development because the nation's need for minerals must be balanced with environmentally sound methods for extraction. There are important national needs for mineral resource information that should be provided by the USGS. Moreover, the panel strongly endorses the scientific values of continued mineral resource research. The panel's confidence in the overall value of the MRSP reflects past mineral resource program successes, the conviction that important resource problems of national relevance will have to be addressed in the future, and the uniqueness of the USGS in terms of technical capability, scope, national jurisdiction, international cooperation, and credibility. The MRSP Plan describes important objectives and means to accomplish them. Among these objectives, the growing emphasis on research on the geochemical behavior of mineral deposits and the environmental implications of their development are properly emphasized. The success of the MRSP Plan will be best measured against clear statements of vision, mission, and objectives. Although implied in the Plan, these planning elements are not clearly stated. The external environment within which the MRSP operates has changed more rapidly and extensively than the program itself. This requires that the MRSP reexamine how it operates, why, and for whom. The MRSP plan was formulated during a period of major organizational changes in the USGS, and these changes should be reflected in the planning elements. The panel identified four general recommendations to improve and help direct future work. In addition, the panel presents a number of detailed recommendations regarding the four subprograms of the MRSP: assessments, mitigation studies, resource investigations, and information and technology transfer. The four general recommendations are: General Recommendation 1: The Plan should be modified to include new, clearly articulated statements of vision, mission, and objectives. General Recommendation 2: To fulfill its mission, the MRSP and its Plan should move away from an organizational culture dominated by self-direction and independent research toward one that also embraces projects developed through collaboration with users.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan General Recommendation 3: The MRSP should place more emphasis on maintaining and continuing to develop its core competence in mineral deposit research and minerals-related environmental research in order to anticipate and respond to future national needs for mineral resource information. General Recommendation 4: The MRSP and its Plan should place greater emphasis on improving the mechanisms and procedures for comprehensive planning, setting priorities, and evaluating and enhancing performance, particularly through external reviews or advisory panels. The level of funding for the MRSP and the balance of funding among its subprograms deserves thorough review by the MRSP staff, users, and collaborative agencies and organizations. The General Recommendations are supplemented by more than twenty specific findings and recommendations about the Plan and the four subprograms that comprise the MRSP. The following issues emerge as significant themes among the specific findings and recommendations: the Plan does not give adequate consideration to the continuing national need for mineral resource supply as a rationale for all aspects of the MRSP; the panel perceives an imbalance between the level of effort placed on quantitative assessment of undiscovered mineral deposits versus the level of effort placed on detailed mapping and data collection; the panel finds that basic research on geochemical and geological processes related to ore formation is a prerequisite for credible mineral resource estimates and environmental assessments; the panel recommends substantive changes in the Mitigation Studies Subprogram.

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