— April 17, 2023
Just before the winter break, Bureau of Geology and NM Tech staff and students hosted the US Geological Survey (USGS) during field work related to the critical minerals in mine wastes project. Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Virginia McLemore, Senior Economic Geologist and Bonnie Frey, Chemistry Lab Manager, along with other Bureau staff joined by Dr. Dan Jones, Geobiologist with NMT’s EES department and numerous students collected rock, water, and bio samples at the Copper Flat Mine near Hillsboro NM. USGS geologists Robert Seal and Kate Campbell-Hay observed our field procedures as part of future work. The NM Bureau of Geology
team was selected by the USGS to test Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for sampling, analyses, and data collection to be used by other states as critical mineral efforts move forward across the country. SOPs are important in scientific research to ensure consistency and reproducibility of results—vital in being able to compare data from different locations, research teams and across time.
The Copper Flat Mine, which was last in production in 1982, was chosen for sampling as a potential source of critical minerals given the work being done to reopen the facility for copper, gold and other commodities. Finding and developing critical minerals such as cadmium, manganese, tellurium, rhenium and rare earth elements (REEs) at Copper Flat would be an economic boost to Sierra County and the surrounding area in south central New Mexico. These materials are required to make our modern electronic devices, electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels. Our two days of field work at Copper Flat produced 27 buckets of mine waste, tailings and slag samples; 2 sets of water samples; and 11 bio samples. These materials will undergo additional processing at Tech before being sent on to various labs for analyses. The results will be used to determine potential sources and economic levels of critical minerals at Copper Flat. More information on the Critical Minerals Project and related work being done at the NM Bureau of Geology can be found on our website.
— Mark Leo-Russell, Database Administrator, NMBGMR