Founded on May 16th, 1910, through the Organic Act (Public Law 179), to deal with a wave of catastrophic mine disasters, the mission of the Bureau of Mines expanded over the years to include:
From its creation, the USBM was viewed, both nationally and internationally, as the focal point for new and emerging science and technology in the minerals field. Since entering competition in 1978, the Bureau of Mines won 35 "R&D 100" Awards, given annually by Research and Development magazine for the 100 most important research innovations of the year. This achievement is especially impressive considering the small size of the Bureau's research budget, compared to those of competing organizations, such as E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, General Electric Company, Hitachi, Ltd., the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
"We leave knowing that the proud accomplishments of this agency did make a difference in the quality of life we now enjoy, and they will continue to do so well into the 21st century." — USBM Director Rhea Graham
In September of 1995, Congress voted to close the Bureau of Mines and to transfer certain functions to other Federal agencies. With USBM's closure, almost $100 million, or 66%, of its 1995 programs ceased, and approximately 1,000 of its employees were dismissed. Certain specific health, safety, and materials programs were transferred to the Department of Energy, and certain minerals information activities moved to the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management. Closure of the Bureau of Mines, and the accompanying transfers of functions and employee layoffs were essentially complete in March of 1996.
The Bureau's Minerals Information functions are being transferred to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in early 1996. The "Mineral Industry Surveys," "Mineral Commodity Summaries," and the "Minerals Yearbook" will continue to be published.
Additional legislation is pending in Congress that would terminate the Government's production of refined helium and begin the sale of crude helium.
Since its founding, the numerous accomplishments of the Bureau of Mines have included the identification and development of many new processes, including:
These and other USBM accomplishments during the past century help ensure that, while the Bureau may have closed its doors, it leaves a valuable legacy.