UW Professor Emeritus to Co-Chair Study on Nation’s Mineral Resources

woman standing outside
Carol Frost

Professor Emeritus Carol Frost, of the University of Wyoming’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, will co-chair a consensus study led by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine titled “Optimizing the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Mineral Resources Program Science Portfolio.”

“National Academies studies are an important source of independent, objective and nonpartisan advice, with high standards of scientific and technical quality,” Frost says. “As division director at the National Science Foundation (NSF), I commissioned one of these studies to identify future research directions and important areas for NSF funding. It is an honor now to be leading a study that will provide advice to the USGS.”

The study will examine the USGS Mineral Resources Program science portfolio to address the question of how it needs to evolve to meet current and future U.S. mineral resources data and science needs.

“Energy transition technologies from wind turbines and solar panels to electric vehicles and battery storage require a wide range of minerals and metals,” Frost says. “The USGS wants to ensure it is prepared to help meet those critical mineral requirements.”

The study will assess the alignment between the Mineral Resources Program’s research and products with national needs for mineral resource data, information and science.

The study will begin at the end of this month and be completed within about 18 months, when a public report is issued.

According to the Energy Transitions Commission’s “Material and Resource Requirements for the Energy Transition,” between 2022-2050, the energy transition could require the production of 6.5 billion tons of end-use materials, 95 percent of which would be steel, copper and aluminum, with much smaller quantities of critical minerals, such as lithium, cobalt, graphite or rare earths.

There is no fundamental shortage of any of the raw materials to support a global transition to a net-zero economy: Geological resources exceed the total projected cumulative demand from 2022-2050 for all key materials, whether arising from the energy transition or other sectors. The key issues are:

-- Ramping up supply fast enough to decarbonize the global economy at the pace required.

-- Ensuring mining for key materials occurs in a sustainable and responsible way that manages and minimizes local environmental impacts.

Signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and world.

Frost earned her A.B. (1979) from Dartmouth College and her Ph.D. (1984) from the University of Cambridge, both in earth sciences. She joined the UW Department of Geology and Geophysics in 1983 and also served in various administrative roles, including as associate provost, associate vice president for research and vice president for special projects. From 2014-18, she served as the director of NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences.

She also has served as president of the Mineralogical Society of America and as science editor of the journal Geosphere. Frost is currently a non-executive director of the British Geological Survey.

Frost’s research focuses on the origin and evolution of the continental crust; the classification and petrogenesis of granites and related rocks; and the application of environmental isotopes to problems related to energy and the environment.

For information about the USGS Mineral Resources Program study committee members and statement of task, visit www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/optimizing-the-usgs-mineral-resources-program-science-portfolio#sectionWebFriendly.

To learn more on the National Academies’ consensus studies, visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/our-study-process.

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