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Open-File Report 98-206 A,B

Database of Significant Deposits of Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in the United States

By Keith R. Long, John DeYoung, Jr., and Stephen D. Ludington

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (10.4 MB)Introduction

It has long been recognized that the largest mineral deposits contain most of the known mineral endowment (Singer and DeYoung, 1980). Sometimes called giant or world-class deposits, these largest deposits account for a very large share of historic and current mineral production and resources in industrial society (Singer, 1995). For example, Singer (1995) shows that the largest 10 percent of the world’s gold deposits contain 86 percent of the gold discovered to date. Many mineral resource issues and investigations are more easily addressed if limited to the relatively small number of deposits that contain most of the known mineral resources. An estimate of known resources using just these deposits would normally be sufficient, because considering smaller deposits would not add significantly to the total estimate. Land-use planning should treat mainly with these deposits due to their relative scarcity, the large share of known resources they contain, and the fact that economies of scale allow minerals to be produced much more cheaply from larger deposits. Investigation of environmental and other hazards that result from mining operations can be limited to these largest deposits because they account for most of past and current production.

The National Mineral Resource Assessment project of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has compiled a database on the largest known deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc in the United States to complement the 1996 national assessment of undiscovered deposits of these same metals (Ludington and Cox, 1996). The deposits in this database account for approximately 99 percent of domestic production of these metals and probably a similar share of identified resources. These data may be compared with results of the assessment of undiscovered resources to characterize the nation’s total mineral endowment for these metals. This database is a starting point for any national or regional mineral-resource or mineralenvironmental investigation.

First posted November 19, 1999

For additional information, contact:
Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 901
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3591

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Suggested citation:

Long, Keith R., DeYoung, John H., Jr., Ludington, Stephen D., 1998, Database of Significant Deposits of Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in the United States: U. S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-206 A,B, 33 pp.,

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