For this assessment, the conterminous United States was divided into 12 regions Adirondack Mountains, Central and Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado Plateau, East Central, Great Basin, Great Plains, Lake Superior, Northern Appalachians, Northern Rocky Mountains, Pacific Coast, Southern Appalachians, and Southern Basin and Range. The assessment, which was conducted by regional assessment teams of scientists from the USGS, was based on the concepts of permissive tracts and deposit models. Permissive tracts are discrete areas of the United States for which estimates of numbers of undiscovered deposits of a particular deposit type were made. A permissive tract is defined by its geographic boundaries such that the probability of deposits of the type delineated occurring outside the boundary is neglible. Deposit models, which are based on a compilation of worldwide literature and on observation, are sets of data in a convenient form that describe a group of deposits which have similar characteristics and that contain information on the common geologic attributes of the deposits and the environments in which they are found. Within each region, the assessment teams delineated permissive tracts for those deposit models that were judged to be appropriate and, when the amount of information warranted, estimated the number of undiscovered deposits. A total of 46 deposit models were used to assess 236 separate permissive tracts. Estimates of undiscovered deposits were limited to a depth of 1 km beneath the surface of the Earth.
The estimates of the number of undiscovered deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc were expressed in the form of a probability distribution. Commonly, the number of undiscovered deposits was estimated at the 90th, 50th, and 10th percentiles. A Monte Carlo simulation computer program was used to combine the probability distribution of the number of undiscovered deposits with the grade and tonnage data sets associated with each deposit model to obtain the probability distribution for undiscovered metal.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Data Base for a National Mineral-Resource Assessment of Undiscovered Deposits of Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in the Conterminous United States