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Research




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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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Estancia basin meteorological station
Estancia Basin is a laboratory for climate research

Bruce D. Allen, Bureau of Geology field geologist, is studying the hydrology of the playa lakes in the Estancia basin in order to reconstruct major changes in climate that have affected this region in the past. Dr. Allen and researchers from the University of New Mexico have instrumented the playas with a network of meteorological stations and piezometers to track seasonal changes in climate and groundwater flow systems.

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Estimating Groundwater Recharge for the Entire State of New Mexico

Groundwater is replenished by a process called recharge, where snowmelt and rain infiltrates through the soil and slowly moves through the subsurface to eventually reach an aquifer. Because groundwater recharge defines a limit for the availability of groundwater, estimating recharge for the state of New Mexico is necessary for effective water resource management.

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Mark Nohl photo (courtesy of New Mexico Magazine)
Geochronologist studies missing rocks

Dr. Matthew Heizler (geochronologist) has just been awarded a three year grant from the NSF tectonics division to study the "Great Unconformity" exposed in western North America. An unconformity is a span of time for which no rock record is represented because it has been eroded away or because sediment was never deposited. The Great Unconformity was coined by John Wesley Powell during his epic run of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, AZ in 1876. Here he noticed that deformed ancient metamorphic rocks were covered by much younger undeformed sedimentary rocks. New Mexico has some of the best exposures of the contact between these very old Precambrian rocks (1.7 billion years) and younger sediments (300 million years) of anywhere in North America.

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Geologic Mapping

Geological Mapping provides the underpinning of most research carried out by our organization. Our goal is to provide state-of-the-art geological maps of sufficient detail to be of benefit for practical applications for the state of New Mexico. These maps can address a wide range specific topics, such as location of geological resources, including mineral and petroleum resources and groundwater, geological hazards, which are all relevant to natural resource use, city planning, and education.

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

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.

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Geology and Hydrogeology of the Estancia Basin and East Mountains

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources has a long history of conducting and supporting hydrogeologic investigations in the Estancia Basin of central New Mexico.

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Geothermal Resources in New Mexico

New Mexico currently utilizes low and intermediate temperature geothermal resources for aquaculture, greenhouses, recreation, district heating, and space heating. In recent years there has been renewed interest in exploring and developing these geothermal resources, and in determining the sustainability of existing resources statewide.

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Helium Resources in New Mexico

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.

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Hydrogeologic Assessment of the Village of Magdalena

On June 5, 2013, the Village of Magdalena had concerns that their primary pumping well was not functioning properly. In reaction to the Magdalena village well problems, broad community concern developed regarding the present groundwater conditions. To help address this concern, the Bureau of Geology and its Aquifer Mapping Program (with the New Mexico Environment Department), commenced a small-scale hydrogeologic assessment. The Bureau’s resources were onsite and available for geologic and hydrologic information and technical support in the region in the summer of 2013.

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