Critical Minerals Alliances 2023 - September 12, 2023
Part of a larger collaboration to better understand the critical minerals potential across Australia, Canada, and the United States, the federal geological surveys from the three countries have merged national-scale geological, geophysical, and mineral resource information into a single dataset that is expected to enhance critical mineral discovery.
"Geology doesn't stop at the border and neither does our data," said U.S Geological Survey scientist Anne McCafferty, who led the data compilation effort. "Scientists will now be able to look at geological and geophysical data seamlessly across both Canada and the United States, as well as make direct comparisons to Australia."
The tri-national geologic, geophysics, and mineral resource data release includes more than 40 earth science data layers, including a new map of variations in the Earth's natural magnetic field for the entirety of Canada and the U.S that geoscientists can use to develop three-dimensional representations of geology underground.
"These standardised datasets, spanning the continents of Australia and North America, enable unique investigations into the controls on critical mineral distribution which were simply not possible beforehand," said Geoscience Australia scientist Karol Czarnota. "I'm sure they will be a foundation for ongoing research and innovation for many years to come."
The tri-national geo-data release is part of the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative, a partnership forged in 2019 to support the establishment of a diversified supply of critical minerals in Australia, Canada, and the U.S.
"This joint data release speaks to our continued commitment to improve scientific cooperation and data sharing between the U.S. Geological Survey, Geoscience Australia, and the Geological Survey of Canada," said Geological Survey of Canada scientist Christopher Lawley.
America's heavy dependence on countries like China for critical minerals and an overall lack of knowledge about many of these elements needed for clean energy, high-tech devices, and military hardware was a primary driver behind the formation of CMMI.
In addition to data-sharing, CMMI combines the expertise brought to the table by each of the nation's geological teams.
"Because each country has expertise in different fields, bringing all of these experts together can create a strong foundation of mineral information that can be used by policy makers, resource-managers, industry and others to help meet the needs of all three countries' economies and security," USGS penned in a 2020 announcement of the critical minerals collaboration.
This geological partnership will also help Australia, Canada, and the U.S. coordinate supply chains for the minerals critical to the clean energy goals and manufacturing sectors in all three countries.
One way the combined geological information has already been leveraged is as a much larger and more diverse dataset for artificial intelligence and machine learning mineral exploration techniques.
A CMMI team led by the Geological Survey of Canada has already used the data layers to map the potential for certain types of zinc deposits in all three nations.
The sediment-hosted zinc deposits this investigation focused on often host gallium and germanium, a pair of technology metals important to chipmaking that have gained attention due to China's dominance in their supply and restrictions on exports.
The international team of geoscientists is using similar techniques to model the potential for other critical mineral systems across Australia, Canada, and the U.S.