The United States Geological Survey (USGS) was established in 1879 for “the classification of the public lands and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.” In 1962, Congress amended the USGS Organic Act to include examinations outside the national domain. The USGS is the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, and is the primary Federal source of science-based information on ecosystem science, land use, energy and mineral resources, natural hazards, water use and availability, and updated maps and images for the Earth’s features available to the public.
Within the USGS, The Mineral Resources Program (MRP) is the primary Federal source of scientific information and research on onshore nonfuel minerals. The Program's science portfolio encompasses a broad spectrum of mineral resource science, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the complete life cycle of non-fuel mineral resources and materials; this includes resource formation, discovery, production, consumption, use, recycling, and reuse, as well as an understanding of environmental issues of concern throughout the life cycle. Research by the USGS also helps to define and forecast foreign dependencies on mineral commodities and to provide the scientific data for the Nation’s minerals industry, especially critical minerals needed for renewable energy and other emerging technologies.
The USGS has worked in consultation with other Cabinet agencies (through the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Critical Minerals Subcommittee (CMS)) to develop the methodology for the Nation’s first list of critical minerals, which the Department of the Interior published in 2018 in response to Executive Order 13817. The USGS has continued to refine the criticality assessment methodology, and USGS updated the list of critical minerals in 2021 in response to the Energy Act of 2020.
The USGS portfolio of mineral information and research activities complements the MGI in several ways. USGS’s capabilities in material flow analysis and assessment and forecasting of mineral criticality can highlight where MGI efforts to develop innovative new material substitutes have the potential to address supply risk for critical materials, thus helping prioritize MGI investments. New materials that spring from MGI research will be constituted from existing elements on the periodic table, so USGS information on discovery, assessment, and production of mineral resources is also crucial to determining the availability of the resources required to manufacture new materials. Conversely, knowledge of new MGI research directions, such as cobalt in certain nanotechnologies, could influence future USGS research directions on ore discovery and assessment, or hint at minerals that might become more critical in the future.