Remote Sensing and Spectroscopic Investigations of Rare Earth Element Resources in the Southeastern U.S.

the Concord mine, a heavy-mineral sand in Virginia The Concord mine, a heavy-mineral sand in Virginia

The USGS relies on deposit models and mineral assessments for assessing the nation's mineral resources. Remotely sensed databases offer enhanced, high resolution mineral maps, which can be used to improve current deposit models and mineral assessments. USGS lacks sufficient spectroscopic investigations and remote sensing studies for characterizing surface materials related to critical deposits such as rare earth element (REE) materials. The goal of this project is to document spectral properties of surface materials related to critical rare earth element deposits in the southeastern U.S. using laboratory, multispectral and hyperspectral data. Three deposit types will be studied:

  • marine phosphates (i.e. phosphorites),
  • paleo-beach placers (i.e. monazites), and
  • residual clay deposits derived from weathered granitoid rock suites.

A combination of field work, geochemical and mineralogical characterization of field samples, and existing data from ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) and hyperspectral sensors will be used to map REE rich materials in the southeastern U.S. Little spectroscopic information is known about REE hosted phosphorites, monazites in paleo-beach placers and REE sequestering clays, and thus characterization of these types of materials is critical to successful remote sensing efforts. Samples from these deposit types will be analyzed and their spectra included in a spectral database that will be used for remote sensing mapping. This work will improve databases of remotely-sensed spectral properties to enable enhanced, high resolution mineral mapping, which will improve current deposit models and develop new methods and techniques for mineral assessments.

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