Frequently Asked Questions Related to Mining

compiled by Shari Kelley
with help from Virginia McLemore and Bob Eveleth

What is ore?
Rock containing minerals in sufficient concentration, quantity, and value to be mined at a profit.
What is uranium?
Uranium is the heaviest naturally-occurring chemical element and it is radioactive, which means that this element, when concentrated, is capable of producing energy. Uranium is a hard, dense, silver-gray metal in concentrated form.
Where does uranium occur in the natural envrionment?
Most rocks contain trace amounts of uranium (bulk concentrations on the order of 2 to 4 parts per million), however, uranium is not distributed uniformly through rocks, but tends to be concentrated in certain minerals. Some common accessory minerals in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, such as apatite and zircon, contain 2 to 1000 ppm uranium. Ore minerals like pitchblende, a variety of uraninite, uraninite (85 per cent uranium), carnotite, autunite, uranophane, and tobernite have uranium concentrations that are high enough to be economically mined. In addition, uranium can also be recovered in commercial quantities from coal and monazite sands. Uranium also occurs naturally in surface and ground water and in the ocean.
Where does uranium mineralization occur in the state of New Mexico?
Uranium districts are shown in red on this map of the mining districts in the state of New Mexico. Most uranium deposits in New Mexico are found in sandstones of the Jurassic Morrison Formation and the Jurassic Todilto Formation.
NM mining districts
(click to download a 619 Kb PDF of this map)
Virginia McLemore discusses the basics of uranium exploration and production in New Mexico in the 2002 Decision Makers volume.
Where can I find additional information about uranium mineralization in New Mexico?
The following publications are available through the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources:
  • Resource Map 18. Uranium resources in New Mexico, by V. T. McLemore and W. L. Chenoweth, 1989, 36 p. text, 1 sheet, scale 1:1,000,000.
  • Open-File Report 353. Uranium mines and deposits in the Grants district, Cibola and McKinley Counties, New Mexico, by V. T. McLemore and W. L. Chenoweth, 1992, 22 p., 2 tables, 1 fig., 7 sheets, 1:24,000 scale maps
  • Open-File Report 461. Database of uranium mines, prospects, occurrences and mills in New Mexico, by V.T. McLemore, K. Donahue, C.B.. Krueger, A. Rowe, L. Ulbricht, M.L. Jackson, M.R. Breese, G. Jones, and M. Wilks, 2002, CD-ROM.
Where can I find geophysical logs for wells intersecting uranium prospects?
These logs are in our Petroleum Records library.
How do I file a mining claim?
The first step in establishing a claim is determining land ownership. The most up-to-date information concerning land status can be found at the local county courthouse.
Second, contact the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Mining Division to learn about the 1993 New Mexico Mining Act and determine if a permit is needed for any proposed operations.
If the land is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, follow the procedures for filing a claim described on their webpage.
If the land is under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, contact the appropriate district ranger station.
Contact the State Land Office if the claim is on state land.
Contact the local tribal government if you wish to explore on an Indian reservation.
— See our "How to Stake a Mining Claim" page for more information —
How do I maintain a mining claim?
If the claim is on BLM land, contact the Bureau of Land Management to learn more about work maintenance requirements and annual assessment fees.
What state agency regulates hard rock mining in the state of New Mexico?
The New Mexico Mining Commission.
The New Mexico Administrative Code describes current rules and regulations. Use the search engine to find the most recent rulings concerning the New Mexico Mining Act.
Is there a single reference that describes mines and mineral resources in New Mexico?
No, but the mining archive developed and maintained by Maureen Wilks, our geological librarian, contains a plethora of mining-related data. The archive, which is housed in the Workman Addition on the campus of New Mexico Tech, is organized by mining district, mine, or prospect name; township-range-section location; and county. Certain large mining districts, such as the Magdalena mining district in Socorro County, are filed in a special collection that consists of geologic reports, maps, photographs, production data, and historical information associated with each district. Other resources in the archive include:
  • A complete microfilm collection of the mining journal, Mining and Scientific Press, and paper copies of the magazine Mogollon Mines.
  • Newspapers highlighting mining activity in New Mexico, including the Socorro Bullion, Socorro Sun, Socorro Industrial Advertiser, Socorro Chieftain,
  • Southwestern Mines, Las Vegas Mining World, and Cochiti Call, as well as newspapers from Bland, Clifton, and the Black Range.
  • District maps and mineral survey platte maps
  • Topographic maps
  • Vintage topographic maps, including 15-minute and 30-minute sheets
  • Historic photographs and slides
  • Representative mineral specimens from some mining districts
The archive can be viewed by making arrangements with Maureen Wilks. The data in the archive are currently being scanned and converted to a digital database.
I’d like to learn more about a mine or a mineral claim in New Mexico. Who do I contact?
If you'd like to learn about the history of mining in New Mexico, contact Bob Eveleth. Virginia McLemore can provide information about current mining activities in New Mexico.
What information do I need to provide as part of my inquiry?
Location (e.g., Township-Range-section) and what specifically are you curious about (type of minerals, history of prospect, geology, production, reserves, etc.).