Interior Programs for Assessing Mineral Resources on Federal Lands Need Improvements and Acceleration

EMD-78-83: Published: Jul 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 1978.

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Information about reserves of mineral deposits is essential for developing government policies on resources and land use. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is the main government information source on domestic mineral resources. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service, the two largest federal land managing agencies, expect to spend about $200 million preparing their land use plans through fiscal year 1986.

Unless USGS programs are accelerated, many of these plans will not be able to incorporate USGS information on possible mineral resources on federal lands, and additional costs could be incurred if revisions to the plans are necessary. USGS programs could: (1) help Congress decide which federal lands should be established as wilderness areas; (2) supply information important in carrying out a potential leasing program for mining nonfuel minerals on federal lands; and (3) benefit the domestic mining industry. The following shortcomings should be corrected: (1) USGS lacks a structured, formal plan for completing its mineral resource assessment; (2) USGS has not consulted federal and state land managing agencies or the mining industry to determine their information needs; (3) USGS could benefit from establishing a committee of leading experts who have a direct interest in the mineral industry; and (4) more coordination is needed in land use planning schedules and mineral assessment schedules. USGS did not always have adequate scientific expertise to work on the programs.

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