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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2005-1294-B

Reviews of the Geology and Nonfuel Mineral Deposits of the World

Geology and Nonfuel Mineral Deposits of Latin America and Canada

Published 2005
Online only
Version 1.0

By Charles G. Cunningham, Michael L. Zientek, Walter J. Bawiec, and Greta J. Orris


A nation's endowment of nonfuel mineral resources, relative to the world's endowment, is a fundamental consideration in decisions related to a nation's economic and environmental well being and security. Knowledge of the worldwide abundance, distribution, and general geologic setting of mineral commodities provides a framework within which a nation can make decisions about economic development of its own resources, and the economic and environmental consequences of those decisions, in a global perspective. The information in this report is part of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) endeavor to evaluate the global endowment of both identified and undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources. The results will delineate areas of the world that are geologically permissive for the occurrence of undiscovered selected nonfuel mineral resources together with estimates of the quantity and quality of the resources. The results will be published as a series of regional reports; this one provides basic data on the identified resources and geologic setting, together with a brief appraisal of the potential for undiscovered mineral resources in Latin America and Canada. Additional information, such as production statistics, economic factors that affect the mineral industries of the region, and historical information, is available in USGS publications such as the Minerals Yearbook and the annual Mineral Commodity Summaries (available at

The region covered in this report is a major producer of mineral commodities like copper (53 percent of world production in 2004), silver (48 percent), zinc (30 percent), nickel (32 percent), molybdenum (43 percent), iron ore (29 percent), gold (21 percent), lead (18 percent), primary aluminum (17 percent), salt (19 percent), and manganese (12 percent). In addition, the countries in the region are among the world's major producers, or have significant reserves of antimony, asbestos, barium, beryllium, bismuth, boron, cobalt, fluorite, graphite, gypsum, indium, iodine, kaolin, magnesite, niobium, nitrate, potash, selenium, strontium, tellurium, tin, titanium, and tungsten. The United States does not produce enough of some mineral commodities to supply all of its current domestic demand, and it relies on imports to satisfy these needs. In 2004, the United States imported 100 percent of its arsenic, asbestos, bauxite and alumina, columbium (niobium), fluorspar, graphite, indium, manganese, mica, industrial quartz crystal, rare earths, rubidium, strontium, thallium, thorium, vanadium, and yttrium from sources that include countries in this region. Although Latin America and Canada are rich in mineral resources (both identified and undiscovered), increasing concerns about the environmental and societal impacts of minerals development in the region are increasingly affecting the progress of new exploration and development activities.

A recurrent theme of this report is that mineral deposits are associated with large-scale geologic processes that reoccur in time and place. Mineral deposits do not occur randomly; their distribution is intimately related to the geologic history of each continent. The more we know about the geologic fabric of each continent and the processes that control the regional and local distribution of mineral deposits, the better we can answer where new deposits will be found and what they will contain.

Chapter B

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OF 2005-1294-B. Geology and Nonfuel Mineral Deposits of Latin America and Canada [12-MB PDF]


For scientific questions or comments concerning this report, contact Klaus J. Schulz or Joseph A. Briskey.

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