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ALERT: USGS Mineral Reources Program
Threatened With 53% Cut

(Posted 4-5-06)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: The Mineral Resources Program is the sole federal provider of scientific information for objective mineral resource assessments and unbiased research results on mineral potential, production, consumption and environmental effects and would receive a 42% cut, leaving the program with only $31 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. This reduction would terminate the collection of nation-wide basic geologic and mineral deposit data, the internationally coordinated global mineral resource assessment, and many mineral commodity reports. Additionally, this cut would eliminate approximately 180 full time positions within the USGS at facilities in Reston, Reno, Tucson, Denver and Menlo Park, among others. The $31 million remaining in the program would continue funding for minerals surveys and studies relevant to ongoing land management by the Department of the Interior, regulatory, and remediation activities more oriented to the interests of states, local governments, and universities.


The Mineral Resources Program (MRP) of the USGS provides critical information about minerals and mineral products that supports the foundation of the U.S. economy and enhances the quality of life of all Americans. MRP provides objective mineral resource assessments and equitable research results on mineral potential, production, consumption and environmental effects. The estimated value of domestically processed non-fuel mineral materials totaled $478 billion in 2005.

The MRP has 6 divisions with offices across the U.S. working on a broad range of initiatives to secure the nation’s economic base and environmental welfare. The following six examples of ongoing or completed projects emphasize the vitality of the entire program:

* Each month, the Minerals Information Services of the MRP responds to 2,000 telephone inquiries and more than 90,000 email or facsimile inquiries from the federal government, state agencies, domestic and foreign agencies, foreign governments and the general public.

* Cutting-edge research investigates the role of microbes in the geochemical cycles of arsenic, mercury, lead and zinc. It is vital to understand the pathways of transport, reaction and accumulation of health-threatening toxins related to these elements in the near-surface environment and to distinguish their natural or anthropogenic sources.

* USGS scientists completed a study of the occurrence and distribution of asbestos-bearing vermiculite deposits in the U.S., in response to the health problems created by Libby Mine’s asbestos-bearing vermiculite deposit in Montana. Determining the distribution of mineral resources or mineral products in the U.S. and elsewhere that might have an adverse health or environmental effect is essential for our quality of life and for reducing economic risks.

* A USGS report on the diatomite mining industry concluded that the U.S. industry is mature and stable, but may be adversely affected by overproduction in other countries in the future. Diatomite is used for various applications, including filtration, absorbents, fillers, insulation, and cement manufacture. In 2001, the U.S. produced about 30% of diatomite globally and accounted for at least 50% of all the diatomite exported in the world.

* Mineral industry surveys are published monthly to quarterly on U.S. production, imports and exports, and production and capacity of other countries of all economically-important resources from abrasives to zinc.

* The Global Mineral Resource Assessment Project of the MRP provides unbiased and timely information about the current and future availability of mineral resources around the world. This assessment is needed to understand and anticipate economic, health, environmental and political factors that will affect how these resources are used in this increasingly interconnected world.

The data and analyses of the MRP are used by the Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Federal Reserve, other federal, state and local government entities, foreign governments, private companies and the general public. Analyses based on the MRP data are essential for guiding economic and environmental policy and for providing options for land use decisions posed by industry, government and private land owners.

Funding must be restored for this vital program. Please write a brief letter to the House and Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittees and your Representative and Senator explaining why the USGS Minerals Program should not be subjected to major cuts. Contact information and a sample letter are provided below as a template. Feel free to cite specific programs and to use examples of the value of unbiased mineral assessments. Fact sheets on USGS programs are available at http://www.usgs.gov.

Please fax or e-mail a copy of your letter to AGI at Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703-379-7563; email govt@agiweb.org.

Due to new security procedures for postal mail, the most timely and efficient means with which to communicate with your Members of Congress is by faxing letters or utilizing e-mail offered through their websites (http://www.house.gov/ or http://www.senate.gov). Many thanks for taking the time to be an active citizen-scientist!


Letter to House and Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittees:

Senator Conrad Burns, Chairman
Senator Byron Dorgan, Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Appropriations
Interior and Environment Subcommittee
132 Senate Dirksen Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: (202) 228-4532

or

Representative Charles Taylor, Chairman
Representative Norman D. Dicks, Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations
Interior and Environment Subcommittee
B-308 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: (202) 225-9069

Dear Senators Burns and Dorgan:
Dear Representatives Taylor and Dicks:

I am writing to ask that you support a strong, balanced investment in science in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 budget request. Specifically, I urge you to support a robust budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Nation's premier geoscience organization, and restore funding to the Mineral Resources Program.

The central mission of the USGS is to provide reliable, objective earth science data and analysis from a national perspective. The survey is widely recognized for providing unbiased data to better manage the nation's resources, especially its mineral resources. The Mineral Resources Program is the sole federal provider of scientific information for objective mineral resource assessments and unbiased research results on mineral potential, production, consumption and environmental effects and is slated to receive a 42% cut in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. This reduction would terminate the collection of nation-wide basic geologic and mineral deposit data, the internationally coordinated global mineral resource assessment, and many mineral commodity reports. Additionally, this cut would eliminate approximately 180 full time positions within the USGS at facilities in Reston, Reno, Tucson, Denver and Menlo Park, among others. Please support a strong budget request so that this agency can fulfill its important mission.

The data and analyses of the MRP are used by the Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Federal Reserve, other federal, state and local government entities, foreign governments, private companies and the general public. Analyses based on the MRP data are essential for guiding economic and environmental policy and for providing options for land use decisions posed by industry, government and private land owners.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter. If you would like additional information on the Mineral Resources Program and its value to our Nation, I would be happy to be of assistance.


Alert prepared by Margaret Anne Baker, AGI Government Affairs

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted April 5, 2006


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