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Biden-Harris administration to support mapping of critical minerals in Southwest US

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Global Mining Review,

Through funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are teaming up to map portions of the Southwest US (including parts of California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah) for critical mineral potential using airborne hyperspectral imaging.

The US$16 million, five-year research project is being funded by the USGS Earth mapping resource initiative (Earth MRI), through investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Critical minerals are vital to the nation’s economy and national security, these investments will help improve our understanding of domestic critical mineral resources, a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that power everything from household appliances and electronics, to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines.

"This exciting scientific effort is made possible through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s investments and will enable NASA and the USGS to leverage our unique capabilities toward a common goal,” said USGS Director David Applegate. “The data we’re collecting will be foundational for not only critical minerals research but also for a wide range of other scientific applications, from natural hazards mitigation to ecosystem restoration.”

“This exciting new project is just one example of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to a clean energy future,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA has a long history of Earth observation that shows us how the planet is responding to climate change. This project builds on our 60-year legacy, and can show us where to look for the resources that support our transition to a clean energy economy. With our partners at USGS, NASA has led the way in developing these Earth observation systems to gather information to measure and monitor the environment and climate change.”

The research project will use NASA’s Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) high-altitude Earth remote sensing platform to collect hyperspectral data over large regions in the arid and semi-arid western US. Hyperspectral data are reflections of light from surfaces, measured across hundreds of frequency bands. These measurements capture not only light visible to our eyes, but also bands of light beyond the visible, into the infrared.

These data can be very useful in studying surface rock formations because each mineral in rocks has its own unique reflection characteristics across the various bands of light. Looking for these patterns or 'spectral signatures' can help identify locations with high potential for mineral resources.

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