United States mineral resources

Professional Paper 820

Edited by:
Donald A. Brobst and Walden P. Pratt



The work on this volume began in January 1972, but in a broader sense its production began many years ago. The chapters were written by geologists most of whom have had many years of experience studying the geology of mineral deposits, and more particularly the commodities about which they have written here. A total of nearly 2,300 man-years of professional experience in the geology of mineral resources is represented by the authors of the volume, and about 30 man-years went directly into its preparation. Each chapter contains not only a synthesis of the state of knowledge of the geology of the commodity, but also an appraisal of the known resources, and an examination of the geologic possibilities for finding additional deposits.

In January 1972, responsibility for the preparation of the volume was assigned to us as co-editors, and we were given a tentative list of commodities and authors. We provided each author with a suggested outline of general topics to be covered, and some guidelines as to scope and philosophy of approach, but beyond that we avoided any attempt to fit each chapter into a stereotype. Moreover, the types of commodities range from the major metals and industrial minerals such as copper, silver, and fluorspar, which have been the subject of geologic research for years, to other commodities that are of such varied geologic nature (such as pigments or gemstones) or of such minor present importance (such as scandium or thallium) that they cannot be treated from the same viewpoint as the major minerals. The chapters range, therefore, from comprehensive summary reports to general essays that reflect the individuality of the authors as well as the variation among commodities.

Throughout the book the emphasis is on geology, but each chapter contains some summary information on uses, technology, and economics. These summaries are not meant to be exhaustive, however, and additional details are in the 1970 edition of "Mineral Facts and Problems" (Bulletin 650 of the U.S. Bureau of Mines) ; indeed, we regard that book and the present volume as being complementary.

In the examination of the geologic possibilities for finding new deposits-in many respects the principal innovative contributions of this volume-we asked the authors to frankly apply the limits of their ingenuity and not only to summarize current theories but also to express their own intuitive ideas, however speculative and unconventional they may seem, that have come from years of study devoted to the origin of mineral deposits. Readers will see that some authors have speculated more courageously than others. In any case, we believe readers will find all the chapters interesting, and many stimulating; and a few we believe can be frankly characterized as intellectually exciting.

Most chapters include a section on prospecting techniques, and a summary of geologic or related problems on which the authors believe research might be most fruitful in the continuing efforts to find new resources.

An integral part of the book is the bibliographic material cited at the conclusion of each chapter, in lieu of repetition of detailed descriptions already in print. Index and "spot" maps are not included in most chapters because they are available elsewhere, and in many cases with more detail than could possibly be included here. Maps showing the distribution of known deposits of many commodities in the United States are available in the Mineral Resource (MR) map series of the U.S. Geological Survey and in the National Atlas of the United States.

The first three chapters deal not with resources of specific commodities but with general information that is pertinent to the study of mineral resources. In the introductory chapter we discuss the purposes of the book, the distinctions between reserves and various categories of resources, and some general conclusions drawn from our view of the book in its entirety. In the second chapter V. E. McKelvey discusses the problems of mineral-resource estimates and public policy. In the third chapter, R. L. Erickson discusses some new points of view on the relation of reserves and resources to the crustal abundance of elements.

We acknowledge with thanks the cooperation of our colleagues in all phases of the preparation of this volume. Whatever success the book may attain is due entirely to a total effort. A paragraph of acknowledgment originally submitted as a part of the chapter on "Nuclear fuels" is given here instead because we feel it applied to all chapters: "The writers have drawn freely from published information, not all of which is cited, and from their colleagues, none of whom are given specific credit. The reader should be aware that the paper could not have been written without these sources." We extend specific thanks to Michael Fleischer for preparation of summaries of geochemical information that are included in many chapters. 

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
United States mineral resources
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
viii, 722 p.