The United States depends on a variety of raw, non-fuel materials dubbed “critical minerals” to manufacture products considered essential to national security. These products can range from rare earth minerals in electric motors and generators, to the carbon fiber used for airplanes. Increasing demand, coupled with limited domestic supply and increasing reliance on foreign companies to import these critical minerals, poses significant risks to the U.S. supply chain.
DARPA has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to explore the potential for machine learning and artificial intelligence tools and techniques to accelerate critical mineral assessments. The goal is to significantly speed up the assessment of the nation’s critical mineral resources by automating key steps in the process.
The Energy Act of 2020 called for the USGS to assess all critical mineral resources in the U.S. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law called on the USGS to assess potential critical mineral resources in mine wastes. These assessments can quantify potential mineral sources from existing domestic mines – whether historical or active – and help identify opportunities for economically and environmentally viable resource development.