skip all navigation
skip banner links
skip primary navigation

Research — Mineral Resources

Mineral resources, like copper, silver, gold, uranium, zeolites, perlite, potash, and carbon dioxide all contribute to New Mexico's economy. Since our establishment in 1927, the Bureau has worked in mining districts throughout New Mexico. These are some of our projects.



The projects listed below are a random selection. Use criteria above to search by keyword, feature or region. Combining search criteria may provide few or no results.
Helium Resources in New Mexico
headline image

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe but is rare on Earth. Helium has unique physical and chemical properties that render it indispensable to our modern technological society – it is requisite for the operation of MRI instruments and in the manufacture of computer chips and fiber optic cables. However, helium gas deposits are rare, and helium is typically a trace component of natural gases being emitted at the Earth’s surface. As established supplies have become stressed, the price of helium gas has increases from $18 per thousand ft3 to more than $200 per thousand ft3. Helium has been mined in New Mexico, and the location of helium resources has been mapped by Ron Broadhead, our principal senior petroleum geologist at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

[read more...]

Geology and Evolution of the Copper Flat Porphyry System, Sierra County, New Mexico
headline image

The Hillsboro district, in central New Mexico, is an example of the typical geologic style of the development of Laramide porphyry copper deposits in southwestern United States. Porphyry copper deposits form from hydrothermal fluids that come from a magmatic source, generally a volcano. The copper is concentrated first by magmatic-hydrothermal processes, then copper can be further concentrated by later supergene fluids, typically meteoric waters. Porphyry copper deposits typically are large deposits and are mined mostly by open pit methods and can have by-product production of gold, silver, molybdenum, and other metals. Other types of deposits, such as skarns and polymetallic veins can occur near the porphyry copper deposits. Much of the world's copper is produced from porphyry copper deposits.

[read more...]

Apache Mesa Rare Earth Elements Deposits
headline image
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.

[read more...]

Questa Rock Pile Weathering Stability Study

Chevron, Inc. (formerly Molycorp, Inc.) funded a major consortium to assess and identify the future risk of weathering on physical failure of existing rock piles based on the physical, chemical and mineralogical composition and weathering of the piles at Chevron's Questa mine, in Taos County, New Mexico.

[read more...]

Alteration and Epithermal Mineralization in the Steeple Rock District, Grant County, New Mexico and Greelee County, Arizona
headline image

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.

[read more...]

AML Project: Inventory and Characterization of Inactive/abandoned mine (AML) features in New Mexico
headline image

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 274 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 U.S. Park Service has identified 71 mine features in 7 parks in New Mexico, of which 12 have been mitigated and 34 require mitigation. Additional sites have been reclaimed by the responsible companies and the Superfund program (CERCLA).

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.

[read more...]

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.

[read more...]

Scientists Use Ancient Ore Deposits to Predict Ground Water Quality and Paleoclimate
headline image

Two Bureau of Geology scientists, in collaboration with scientists at the United State Geological Survey, have discovered similarities between ground water systems that formed ore deposits 10 million years ago and modern ground water in the Rio Grande Rift. They reported their work in an invited presentation at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Dr. Virgil Lueth, mineralogist/ economic geologist, and Lisa Peters, senior lab associate at the New Mexico Geochronological Research Lab, have been studying the mineral jarosite in ore deposits from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Albuquerque.

[read more...]