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Research




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A hydrogeologic investigation of Curry and Roosevelt Counties, New Mexico

As part of development of a regional source water protection plan, in 2015–2016 the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources performed a technical review of existing hydrogeology studies in Curry and Roosevelt counties in east-central New Mexico.

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Alteration and Epithermal Mineralization in the Steeple Rock District, Grant County, New Mexico and Greelee County, Arizona
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The Steeple Rock district in the Summit Mountains in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona offers an excellent opportunity to examine the relationship between the distribution and timing of the alteration and the formation of fissure veins in an epithermal environment. Five distinct types of epithermal veins occur in the district: base metals with gold-silver, gold-silver, copper-silver, fluorite, and manganese. These epithermal veins are structurally controlled, are hosted by Oligocene to Miocene volcanic and intrusive rocks, and are spatially associated with two types of alteration: neutral pH (alkali chloride or propylitic to argillic to sericitic) and acid sulfate (advanced argillic). Neutral pH alteration is the most pervasive type of alteration in the district and occurred in three stages: regional pre-mineralization, local syn-mineralization, and regional post-mineralization.

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AML Project: Inventory and Characterization of Inactive/abandoned mine (AML) features in New Mexico
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The NMBGMR has been examining the environmental effects of mine waste rock piles throughout New Mexico since the early 1990s. There are tens of thousands of inactive or abandoned mine features in 273 mining districts in New Mexico (including coal, uranium, metals, and industrial minerals districts), however many of them have not been inventoried or prioritized for reclamation. The New Mexico Abandoned Mine Lands Bureau of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department estimates that there are more than 15,000 abandoned mine features in the state. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently estimated that more than 10,000 mine features are on BLM lands in New Mexico and only 705 sites have been reclaimed. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources has collected published and unpublished data on the districts, mines, deposits, occurrences, and mills since it was created in 1927 and is slowly converting historical data into a relational database, the New Mexico Mines Database. More than 8,000 mines are recorded in the New Mexico Mines Database and more than 7,000 are inactive or abandoned. These mines often include two or more actual mine features.

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Apache Mesa Rare Earth Elements Deposits
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photograph by Viginia McLemore

The Point Lookout Sandstone on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in Rio Arriba County contains geological layers called “beach placer deposits”. Beach-placer sandstone deposits are accumulations of dense minerals that form on beaches, or in shallow ocean water. They form by mechanical settling of heavy minerals by the action of waves, currents, and winds. These deposits contain Rare Earth Elements (REE) which are important commodities required to manufacture green technologies, like wind turbines and hybrid/electric cars and are essential in most of our electronic devices, like cell phones and laptop computers.

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Coal Resources in New Mexico
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For 35 years the bureau has worked cooperatively with the U.S. Geological Survey to contribute to the National Coal Resource Data System (NCRDS). The goal has been to get stratigraphic and coal quality data for all of the coal-bearing regions of New Mexico into a national database.

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Cosmogenic dating of young basaltic lava flows
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Cosmogenic dating techniques have been successfully applied to dating of geomorphically-young surfaces, such as glacial moraines, beach terraces, and basaltic lava flows that have intact surface features, and hence have undergone little erosion (e.g. Phillips et al., 1997a and b; Phillips et al, in review, Dunbar and Phillips, 1996; Zreda et al., 1991, 1993; Zreda, 1994; Anthony and Poths, 1992, Laughlin et al., 1994). These techniques rely on measurement of cosmogenic nuclides that begin to build up as soon as a rock is exposed to cosmic rays. Therefore, cosmogenic techniques can be applied to dating of any surface that is composed of material that was not exposed to cosmic rays prior to formation of the surface, and has been exposed more-or-less continuously since. In the case of an extrusive volcanic rock, buildup of cosmogenic nuclides begins when the rock is erupted, so measurement of the ratio of a cosmogenic isotope to a non-cosmogenic isotope can provide an estimate of eruption age (Phillips et al., 1986).

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Dating the Sands of Time

A new dating method, being developed at the NMBG&MR, uses our state-of-the-art geochronology laboratory, funded by NSF and NM Tech, to determine the age of detrital sanidine (tiny volcanic minerals) from sediments.

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Development of 3D Aquifer Maps

It is surprising that New Mexico does not have a detailed map of all of the productive and accessible aquifers across the state. In a state with as little as 0.24% of our land surface covered with water (the least in the country!), having detailed maps of our groundwater resources and aquifers, is essential. Some of our neighboring states, like Texas and Colorado, have these maps already available, and are successfully being used to administer and conserve water. We have started a new multi-year project to develop 3D maps of aquifers.

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El Camino Real Paleohydrogeology
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In 2012, our Aquifer Mapping Program at the Bureau of Geology initiated a paleohydrogeology study in the area of El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro, which is a National Historic Trail designated by Congress. This study is part of the Mitigation Plan that is being implemented by Spaceport America, with funding from New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

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Enhanced Potash Recovery Techniques

In cooperation with several partners in industry, a team at the bureau has developed and introduced new reagent suites and process modifications which have dramatically increased the efficiency of potash recovery from existing reserves. These new techniques have been adopted by plants within the state and will result in increased recoveries, reduced energy and reagent costs, and more effective utilization of the state’s potash resources. These resources, which are concentrated in the southeast corner of the state, are used primarily in the manufacture of agricultural fertilizer and as raw material in the chemical industry.

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There are 46 more research projects matching these critera (orderd by title).