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Bulletin 44—Mineral resources of the Navajo reservation in New Mexico (exclusive of uranium, coal, oil, gas and water)

By J. E. Allen, 1955, 1 sheet with text.

In 1952 the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), acting under direction from the Congress as provided in the Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Act, turned to the NM Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources with the challenging request to point out mineral or other natural resources in the Reservation, which if utilized, could improve the standard of living and increase the participation of the Navajo Indians in the economic pattern of the nation. In response to this request, the NM Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, on a contact basis, undertook the detailed study of an area of 500 mi2 near Fort Defiance and Tohatchi where a typical section of the geologic formations of the eastern part of the Reservation were exposed, and each could be evaluated as to its economic possibilities. The comprehensive report on this project to the Bureau of Indian Affairs was published in 1954.

The Navajo Indian reservation in NM includes slightly more than 4,000 mi2 in San Juan and McKinley Counties in the northwest corner of the state, extending 90 mi in a north-south direction, and having an east-west width of about 45 mi. The Reservation contains coal reserves estimated recently as totaling 38.5 billion tons. These coals currently are being studied and remapped by the Fuels Branch of the USGS. The reservation also contains important reserves of gas, oil, and helium which since the first discovery have yielded a total income to the Navajo Tribe of nearly $10 million; the annual income from leases and royalties now averages over $1.5 million. Along the western margin of the reservation in NM are deposits of uranium and vanadium areas whose value is as yet undetermined; production is now being obtained from several properties, and extensive exploration by mapping, sampling, and drilling, especially west of Sanostee, is being carried on by the Atomic Energy Commission. A plant for the extraction of uranium from these ores is under construction at Shiprock. In a region of semiarid climate such as that of the reservation, study of the occurrence, amount, and quality of both surface and underground waters is of extreme importance; this study is being carried on by the Ground Water Branch of the USGS.

In a discussion of the mineral resources of any region these resources can be separated into two categories: those which are being utilized currently, and those which have future or potential value and importance. The Navajo Reservation is a relatively undeveloped region, and the above mentioned resources are far from being fully utilized; numerous other rock and mineral substances will fall into the second category. It was the function of this project to locate and report upon those substances not excluded under the terms of the contract and discuss their possible value to the Navajo Tribe.

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