RFG 2018 Conference

critical issues

Interactive map of post-fire debris-flow hazards in the Western United States

The U.S. Geological Survey conducts post-fire debris-flow hazard assessments for many major fires across the Western United States. The information from these assessments is provided in an interactive map, allowing users to view fires by location or name and access detailed maps of debris-flow probability in the area affected by each fire. Users can select fires by year back to 2013.

Mineral Commodity Summaries, 2018

Each chapter of the 2018 edition of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Commodity Summaries (MCS) includes information on events, trends, and issues for each mineral commodity as well as discussions and tabular presentations on domestic industry structure, Government programs, tariffs, 5-year salient statistics, and world production and resources. The MCS is the earliest comprehensive source of 2017 mineral production data for the world. More than 90 individual minerals and materials are covered by two-page synopses.

In 2017, the estimated value of total nonfuel mineral production in the United States was $75.2 billion, a 6% increase from the revised total of $70.8 billion in 2016. The estimated value of metals production increased 12% to $26.3 billion. Higher prices contributed to some metal commodity values increasing more than 35% (cobalt, magnesium metal, and palladium). Despite this increase, some U.S. metal mines and processing facilities remained idle in 2017, including three primary aluminum smelters in Indiana, Missouri, and Washington; a titanium sponge facility in Utah; and a byproduct vanadium production facility in Utah. However, new gold mines opened in late 2016 and 2017 in Nevada and South Carolina, respectively, and iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota restarted or operated for the full year. The total value of industrial minerals production was $48.9 billion, a 3% increase from that of 2016. Of this total, $23 billion was aggregates production (construction sand and gravel and crushed stone). Increased oil and natural gas drilling activity resulted in increased production of some industrial mineral commodities. Limited growth in construction activity resulted in the production of some industrial minerals, especially those used in infrastructure and residential construction, to remain essentially unchanged in 2017.

Critical Issues Program: 2017 in Review

A satellite image of the Earth. Image Credit: NASA

As the first month of 2018 draws to a close, we thought it’d be a good time to look back over 2017 in the Critical Issues program. We would like to thank you for being part of the Critical Issues community this year, whether you were one of the 10,000+ people who watched a webinar live or on YouTube, gave us feedback to improve what we’re doing, or said hello on Twitter. We are always working on ways to bring you more useful, expert, impartial geoscience information or opportunities to discuss geoscience issues, and 2017 was our busiest year yet.

Estimated Annual Uranium Loads in the Arkansas River Entering Kansas 2012-2016

Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3 (GMD3) requested that the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) estimate annual uranium loads in the Arkansas River entering Kansas and express the loads in pounds per year. The KGS estimated uranium loads for the last five years (2012-2016). The climatic conditions for these years ranged from drought (2012) to near normal (2013, 2014, and 2016) to slightly wet (2015) based on the 12-month December value of the Standardized Precipitation Index for the Arkansas River watershed in Colorado. Although the estimated uranium concentration for a year with lower flow is generally higher than for a year with greater flow, the relative differences in the average and median flows during 2012-2016 are greater than those for the uranium concentration among the years, thus the flow has a more important influence on the annual load. This suggests that higher flow years in the past, such as during the most recent high-flow period of 1995-2000 when average annual flows exceeded 300 ft3/sec, would have had substantially greater total uranium loads than for 2012-2016. However, some of those loads passed downstream out of the GMD3 area because the Arkansas River flows were great enough during most of 1995-2000 to sustain flow past Ford County. The flows entering Kansas during 2012-2016 remained within GMD3 and seeped into the alluvial and High Plains aquifers underlying the river channel or were diverted for irrigation in Kearny and Finney counties. Thus, the uranium accumulated in the aquifer groundwater, on sediments of the alluvial and High Plains aquifers, and in the soils underlying the ditch irrigated areas and other areas where groundwater used for irrigation has been affected by Arkansas River infiltration.

Equus Beds Groundwater Management District No. 2 Sustainability Assessment

The objective of this study was to assess the prospects for sustainability of the portions of the High Plains aquifer (HPA) in the Equus Beds Groundwater Management District No. 2 (GMD2) in south-central Kansas. For the purposes of this report, sustainability is defined as being achieved when spatially averaged water levels are stable with time, i.e. the average annual water-level change over an area is zero for a period of several years. Given the temporal variability in annual precipitation and groundwater use, there will be year-to-year rises and falls in spatially averaged water levels across GMD2. However, those changes will average out to zero over a period of several years if the aquifer is being pumped at a sustainable level. The specific purpose of this study was to determine the average annual water use that would produce stable areally averaged water levels over a given area.

High Plains Aquifer Index Well Program: 2016 Annual Report

This report provides a description of conditions as of late winter 2017. The report consists of (a) an update of the hydrographs for all of the index wells and for the expansion wells in the vicinity of the Scott and Thomas index wells (one well near the Scott index well and three wells in the vicinity of the Thomas index well); (b) an interpretation of the hydrographs from all of the index wells; (c) a discussion of the installation of the new index well in GMD4; (d) an update and interpretation of the hydrographs of the expansion wells in the vicinity of the Haskell index well; and (e) a discussion of climatic indices and radar precipitation data and their relationship to annual water-level changes at six of the wells and to water use in the vicinity of those wells.

Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials

Friday, January 26, 2018

No country in the world produces all of the mineral resources necessary for modern society. International trade plays a critical role in providing these raw materials, forming a global network of production, export, import, and use. This network must continuously adapt to national and international developments in science, technology, politics, and economics. As a result, information on the global flow of raw materials plays a fundamental role in improving national and international resilience to potential supply disruptions and market changes.

Our speakers are:

This webinar is co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Australian Institute of GeoscientistsEuropean Federation of GeologistsGeological Society of AfricaGeological Society of LondonGeoscience Information Society, Mineralogical Society of America, and Society of Economic Geologists, with media partnership from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Resources to learn more:

Search the Critical Issues Research Database for reports and factsheets about critical minerals.

The Global Supply of Critical Materials: Assessing and Tracking Critical Mineral Commodities


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