Saturday, February 27, 2010

Krzyzanowskisaurus and other geo-news


ASU houses one of world's largest meteorite collectios

UA SAHRA 'graduates' after decade as NSF center

Freeport to invest internally, not buy assets

Freeport McMoRan CEO Richard Adkerson says the company will grow internally rather than pay a premium for outside assets. reports that the company will use its "strong cash position to increase exploratory drilling, pay down debt, raise shareholder dividends and restart deferred development projects in 2010."

They quote him, "It would be difficult to find acquisitions that compete economically with our internal investment opportunities."

Waveforms from Chile quake

Lepolt Linkimer at the University of Arizona, posted some of the seismograms from the Chile earthquake recoded at Arizona stations at
There is also a time-space diagram of historical Chilean quakes along with a useful map.

Thanks to Susan Beck for passing along the link.

Chile quake waves recorded across Arizona

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake offshore Chile today sent shockwaves across the globe.   They were recorded on Arizona's broadband seismic monitors run by AZGS.  At left is the is the record from the Snowflake AZ station (X18A).

At right is the  Douglas AZ station (319A) near the border with Mexico.  The event is on the 6:00 - 8:00 UMT time line.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rockfall on SR-89

ADOT reports they are clearing a rockfall on State Route Alternate 89, NS-bound from mile post 380.40, 6.30 miles North of Sedona, from 8:20 P.M. to 9:45 P.M.   Incident number 348953

Sponsor pulls anti-renewable energy bill

The AP is reporting that Arizona House Rep. Debbie Lesko is withdrawing HB2701, which would have effectively eliminated the state's renewable energy requirements.  The bill passed committee two days ago, generating intense scrutiny across the nations renewable energy communities, and causing solar companies to rethink building facilities in Arizona.  The bill has 52 sponsors including key legislative leaders, suggesting it would have passed readily.

But news reports this evening say the legislators are bowing to industry reaction.  Gov. Jan Brewer is quoted as praising the decision to kill the bill quickly.

ADOT warns of landslide potential on I-17 southbound

Arizona Dept. of Transportation has released this warning about the potential for rockfalls and landslides along I-17:

Wet Weather Spurs Potential Closure on Southbound I-17 
Engineers monitoring slopes between Black Canyon City, Sunset Point

February 24, 2010

The Arizona Department of Transportation is monitoring two slopes adjacent to southbound Interstate 17 between Sunset Point and Black Canyon City. Heavy rains over the past month have saturated the slopes and increased the potential of rocks falling onto the roadway.

ADOT crews and equipment are on site and engineers are assessing the slopes to determine the steps needed to maintain a safe roadway – a vital route between Flagstaff and metro Phoenix. Should conditions warrant, ADOT crews are in position to immediately close the southbound lanes.

While no rocks have yet fallen onto the highway, the potential is there. A landslide could require closure of both southbound I-17 lanes and up to seven hours to clear. At this time, northbound I-17 is unaffected. 
A closure is possible over the coming days and drivers are urged to call 5-1-1 before traveling on I-17 southbound through this area to avoid unexpected delays or detours. Strategies to repair the slopes – in the short- and long-term – are being developed based on the on-site assessments that are under way.
Wet weather this winter has taken its toll on the highway system around the state. Eroded roadways caused by flooding, rock falls and landslides, snowfall measured in feet, sink holes, and other damage are still being addressed by ADOT crews. 

ADOT’s primary concern is public safety. Storm damage is just one of the daily challenges ADOT crews confront to keep drivers safe, and traffic moving. Crashes, criminal damage, wildlife encounters, and ever-changing weather conditions are at the core of ADOT’s public safety responsibility, and often require highway workers to spend nights, holidays and weekends away from family to address critical safety issues.
Drivers are advised to visit ADOT’s Travel Information Site at or call 5-1-1 for the most current information about restrictions statewide.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mars 3D crater view

Another dramatic picture from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter camera.  This terrain model of the wall terraces in the very young and fresh Mojave Crater was generated by stereo images produced by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Recycled copper supplied 30% of US demand

A study by the USGS of copper recycling in the US in 2004 found that 43% of the potential copper resource was recycled equaling 30% of the nation's demand for the metal.   For comparison, Arizona mines produce more than 60% of the nation's copper needs. [right, credit Freeport McMoRan]

Goonan, T.G., 2009, Copper recycling in the United States in 2004, chap. X of Sibley, S.R., Flow studies for recycling metal commodities in the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1196–X, p. X1–X30, available only at

360 degree spherical panorama photos of Utah

 Take a tour of the 360 degree spherical photos of some of the most spectacular locations in Utah at this cool site -
Use your mouse by holding the left mouse button down and then move the picture up or down. You can see straight up, or down and go right, or left a complete 360 degrees.  [right, Cathederal Valley, Utah]

Thanks to Earl Bennett for turning us on to this site.

US wind energy resource potential tripled

The Dept. of Energy released new estimates of wind energy potential from a study carried out by the National Renewable Energy Lab and AWS Truewind, that are triple previous estimates. The resource increased in part due to measuring wind at 80 m heights rather than 50 m, as wind turbines are reaching higher and tapping higher wind velocities.   Below, Arizona's annual average wind speed at a height of 80 m.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Arizona House vote guts renewable energy standards

The House Government Committee today approved HB2701 that critics argue will effectively kill renewable energy development in Arizona.  The measure would dramatically change the rules for regulatory approval, add the Legislature to the approval process, and define nuclear energy as renewable energy.   No new renewable would be needed to meet the state's 15% Renewable Portfolio Standard, since nuclear power already exceeds that amount.  While most attention has been on solar energy, it could impact the numerous geothermal companies we've been hearing from in recent months.

Renewable energy companies have been warning that it will also cause them to rethink operating in or relocating to Arizona.  [right, artists conception of an Arizona solar energy farm.  Credit, Arizona Solar Energy Industry Association]

The Arizona Republic paper editorialized against the bill today.

Augusta to sell shares to raise C$32 million for Rosemont copper mine

 Augusta Resource Corp. is going to sell 11.82 million shares at C$2.75 each to raise C$32 million to help pay for the costs of developing the Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Tucson's aircraft 'Boneyard'

The UK's Telegraph newspaper is running a story about the 2,600 acre airplane and helicopter "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, following the release of new hi-res photos of the facility on Google Earth.   They report that more than 4,200 obsolete or mothballed aircraft are stored here.   Public tours are available.

AGI offers free webinar on Future Trends in Mining

The American Geological Institute and the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) are offering a free webinar on Future Trends in Mining, March 2nd from 4:00-5:00pm US EST.

This is the first of their GeoConnection series of webinars.  Here are details from the AGI announcement:
The webinar will bring leaders from different employment sectors to discuss prospects for careers for geoscientists in their field. We encourage you to pass along this email to all of your colleagues and students who are interested in employment in the geosciences.

This webinar will focus on future opportunities in the minerals industry,
including both traditional and non-traditional roles for geoscientists.

Panelists will include:

* Leigh Freeman from Downing Teal, a leading recruiter of talent for the global
  minerals industry, will look at the supply and demand trends for geoscientists
  in the minerals sector

* James Steel from HSBC Securities (USA), who will explore both the metals
  trading sector and the numerous employment opportunities in the financial

* Gavin Mudd from Monash University, who will discuss workforce and developments
  in sustainable mining practices

Following the panel presentations, an open discussion period will be held for
audience members from around the world to ask questions of the panel and each

For more information about this webinar, including how to register, visit AGI’s
GeoWebinar webpage at

If you have questions about the webinar that are unanswered by the 
website, please contact Leila Gonzales:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One of those "T" sounding cities

Suppose you flew into Tucson from China, thinking you were in Tulsa, and didn't speak any English?

We were checking in for our flight from Tucson to Houston this evening and realized that the woman at the next counter was just in that quandry.  The Continental Airlines folks were on the phone explaining to someone that it was not that simple to drive from Tucson to Tulsa.    They were checking on flights from Tucson to Tulsa but getting the message translated was a challenge.

For those of you who might not otherwise be able to recognize which city you're in, Tulsa's river has water in it.

[right, Arkansas River, Tulsa.  Left, Santa Cruz River, Tucson]

And as I finished checking in, the Continental folks said they expected they would be able to get the woman to where she wanted to be fairly easily.

Update (10 pm) - the young lady ended up getting on our flight to Houston just as they were closing the cabin door, and sat behind me in the last row.  In Houston, she was clearly lost, clutching her Tulsa boarding pass and trying to figure out what to do.    We were in the B terminal and she needed to be at the farthest end of E.  So, she was gladly accepted my offer to escort her to her gate.    I had trouble myself finding it through multiple twists and turns and a long shuttle train ride.  But we got there with 30 minutes to spare and made sure the gate agent knew of her language limitations.  I gathered from a few one-word exchanges that she is on her way to work in a family-owned restaurant in Tulsa.   

I know when I've traveled overseas how confusing it is, so it was nice to be able to pay back in an anonymous sense to all those who have provided me aid.

ASU profs selected as AGU Fellows

ASU geoscience professors Ed Garnero [left] and Kelin Whipple [right] have been selected as Fellows of the American Geophysical Union.

"To be elected a Fellow of AGU is a special tribute for those who have made exceptional scientific contributions. Nominated Fellows must have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences. This designation is conferred upon not more than 0.1% of all AGU members in any given year. New Fellows are chosen by a Committee of Fellows."

Congrats guys.  Well done!

Uranium levels in water near mines no different than from natural orebodies - USGS

 The hydrology section of the new USGS report  (  on uranium-bearing breccia pipes in northern Arizona describes the results of testing more than 1,000 water samples from the area.  Andrea Alpine, head of the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff, and editor of the report, is quoted by the AZ Daily Sun as saying they could not discern the source of the 5% of the samples that have uranium levels above EPA drinking water standards for uranium.  The report concludes that  these springs and wells are close by or in direct contact with naturally occurring orebodies.  The uranium concentrations found naturally occurring (1 - 20.6 ppb) and those near mines (2 - 19.5 ppb) look to me to be about the same.   

The Center for Biological Diversity says the report "demonstrates unequivocally that uranium mining should not proceed in these environmentally sensitive lands," pointing in particular to high levels of uranium at old mines that have not been reclaimed.

The USGS report concludes:

Historical water-quality and water-chemistry data evaluated for 1,014 water samples from 428 sites indicate that about 70 sites have exceeded either the primary or secondary maximum contaminant levels for certain major ions and trace elements, such as arsenic, iron, lead, manganese, radium, sulfate,
and uranium. These data suggest that water recharged from the surface or from perched water-bearing zones may contain dissolved gypsum from overlying rock units or may have been in contact with sulfide-rich ore. A few springs and wells in the region contain concentrations of dissolved uranium greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level of 30 μg/L. These springs and wells are close by or in direct contact with orebodies.

Samples from 15 springs and 5 wells in the region contained dissolved uranium concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level for drinking water. These springs and wells are close by or in direct contact with mineralized orebodies, and those concentrations are related to natural processes, mining, or to both.

Drought remains in West

 Despite heavier than normal rains in recent weeks, much of the western U.S. is still ranked as abnormally dry to severe drought.   The headline in last week's USA Today said the drought is over but they considered only the worst hit areas as still drought plagued - a swath across northern Arizona and western Nevada.

[right, Drought Monitor for the U.S., Feb 16]

Truce signed in Big Chino water war

The SRP boards, and the city councils for Prescott and Prescott Valley have unanimously signed an agreement to end the 12-year long lawsuits and negotiate terms for use of Big Chino groundwater.

The Verde News summarized key elements in the agreement including a  limit of just over 8,000 acre feet to be pumped annually from the Big Chino, changes in the law to allow the water to be used anywhere in the Prescott AMA, and the cities willingness to mitigate the pumping if it adversely affects the flow of the Verde River.

[right, Big Chino groundwater basin and Prescott AMA. Credit, City of Prescott]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Governor calls for disaster declaration in wake of flooding

Governor Jan Brewer is "requesting a federal Major Disaster Declaration for nine Arizona counties and six tribal nations as a result of severe winter storm activity in January."

The request to President Obama includes Apache, Coconino, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal and Yavapai counties and the tribal nations of Gila River Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Tohono O'odham Nation, San Carlos Apache Tribe and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.  [right, Wenden AZ flood damage from January 22.   Credit,]

Lithostratigraphy for Chinle member in Petrified Forest area

Kudos to Jeff Martz and Bill Parker for publication of an important paper on Petrified Forest region stratigraphy  published today in the online journal PloS ONE.  

In addition to the revised stratigraphic interpretations, Jeff and Bill worked to make their work completely reproducible by providing "GPS coordinates as well as photos of all measured outcrops, showing not only the location but how the outcrop was separated into units. We also provide a copy of our geological map."  Bill describes the rationale and need for this work in his blog Chinleana.

The Open Source Paleontologist points out some of the benefits of an online digital publication - megabytes of color photos and maps, active links to references, and active GPS coordinates among others.
Ref:  Martz, J.W., and W.G. Parker. 2010. Revised lithostratigraphy of the Sonsela Member (Chinle Formation, Upper Triassic) in the southern part of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. PLoSONE 5(2)e9329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009329

More photos from Tucson mineral show

Hobart King from was in town last week for the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show and posted a nice set of annotated photos today.  [right, one of my shots from Hotel Tucson, formerly the Inn Suites]

Plans for ADMMR, mineral museum are ongoing

Mining, mineral, and geology groups across the state are asking for more information about Governor Brewer's plans to transfer the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum to the Historical Society to become the Arizona Centennial Museum.    In response to questions from stakeholders, the governor's staff shared these responses with me.

Plans for the Centennial Museum began many months ago and were born out of the fact that ADMMR was losing ability to deliver on its statutory mission after the series of budget cuts over the last year. The budget cuts necessarily came out of personnel and other non-rent funds, resulting in the loss of significant staff and program capability. It was clear ADMMR needed to find a cheaper facility, which led to the concept of re-purposing the facility into the Centennial Museum. As far as rent, the AHS will receive through a budget transfer the amount of money currently allocated for rent in the ADMMR budget. In future years, the AHS budget will increase by the amount necessary to cover rent. Additionally, the employee position and funds for the curator currently budgeted in ADMMR will be transferred to AHS to assist in managing the new museum. As far as the question of title, that was one of the first questions asked of the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA), and we were assured that the new concept would cause no concern. The plans for the future of ADMMR are still ongoing as the original concept of moving them into empty space at the Governor's Offices with a mineral museum on the 1st and 2nd floors was ruled out due to the metal detectors which could not be relocated. The ADOA is examining other State owned office space where rent is currently being paid by some other agency where we can relocate ADMMR. We have some period of time while the Centennial Museum is being designed to find a new location for ADMMR, so the move is not imminent.

ADMMR Director Madan Singh released a statement on Wednesday,  saying, "it should be understood that there will be discussions between the architect/designer and the mining and other communities involved with the project, before the design is finalized. The mining industry will have considerable input as regards the minerals and mining displays and the messages they convey."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

USGS report released on breccia pipe uranum deposits in N. Arizona

The USGS this morning released their report on breccia pipe uranium deposits in Northern Arizona.  It's a massive 194 Mb file but individual chapters can be downloaded at

Abstract: On July 21, 2009, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar proposed a two-year withdrawal of about 1 million acres of Federal land near the Grand Canyon from future mineral entry. These lands are contained in three parcels: two parcels on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land to the north of the Grand Canyon (North and East Segregation Areas) and one on the Kaibab National Forest south of the Grand Canyon (South Segregation Area). The purpose of the two-year withdrawal is to examine the potential effects of restricting these areas from new mine development for the next 20 years. This proposed withdrawal initiated a period of study during which the effects of the withdrawal must be evaluated. At the direction of the Secretary, the U.S. Geological Survey began a series of short-term studies designed to develop additional information about the possible effects of uranium mining on the natural resources of the region. Dissolved uranium and other major, minor, and trace elements occur naturally in groundwater as the result of precipitation infiltrating from the surface to water-bearing zones and, presumably, to underlying regional aquifers. Discharges from these aquifers occur as seeps and springs throughout the region and provide valuable habitat and water sources for plants and animals. Uranium mining within the watershed may increase the amount of radioactive materials and heavy metals in the surface water and groundwater flowing into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River, and deep mining activities may increase mobilization of uranium through the rock strata into the aquifers. In addition, waste rock and ore from mined areas may be transported away from the mines by wind and runoff.
Ref: SIR 2010-5025:Hydrological, Geological, and Biological Site Characterization of Breccia Pipe Uranium Deposits in Northern Arizona

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vulcan Power raises $108 million for geothermal projects in western states

Geothermal energy company Vulcan Power has raised $108 million from Denham Capital, an energy and commodities based private investment firm to develop projects in Arizona, Nevada, California and Oregon.  Vulcan says they have approximately 170,000 acres of "prime geothermal properties" in the four states. The portfolio includes leases on private and federal lands.

After reading Vulcan's press release, I discovered the company's Chief Scientist is Dr. Jim Combs, who was one of my professors in the geology department at UC Riverside.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Carnegie Mineralogical Award presented to Peter Megaw

The Carnegie Mineralogical Award was presented to prominent Tucson mining geologist and mineral collector Dr. Peter Megaw on Saturday night (Feb 13) at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society banquet.
"The Carnegie Mineralogical Award honors outstanding contributions in mineralogical preservation, conservation, and education that match ideals advanced in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Hillman Hall of Minerals & Gems.   Established in 1987 through the generosity of The Hillman Foundation Inc., the award consists of a bronze medallion, a certificate of recognition and a $2500 cash prize.   It is presented each February during the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show."
Congratulations Peter!   Very well deserved!

DOE to withdraw application for Yucca Mountain

The Engineering News Record ( reports that the "U.S. Dept. of Energy is withdrawing its Nuclear Regulatory Commission application for a waste-storage facility in southern Nevada’s Yucca Mountain."  [right, Yucca Mountain site. Credit DOE]

They state that DOE will formally withdraw the application by the end of the month. The Obama Administration had previously cut funding and eliminated it in the FY11 federal budget, but the application processed had continued on.  This new step will shut down the facility as a nuclear waste storage site.   Wastes will continue to be stored where they are generated.

[disclosure:  my wife is a consulting engineering seismologist who has worked on Yucca Mountain for many years but has not been active on the project for the past year]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Future of ADMMR, mineral collection raised

Update (2-18-10 15:41) - it was pointed out that both the documents referenced below have been removed from the ADMMR site.

In a press release today, the Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources stated,
It is unclear at this time where the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources would move or when. The museum was told by the design firm Gallagher & Associates, that no
minerals in the collection will be released, but since the collection already occupies the available space in the museum, it is difficult to see how the mineral displays will not be affected in sharing equal space with the other ‘c’s.’ It is also unclear where the museum’s
outdoor mining exhibits, consisting of one of the few operating five stamp mills, head
frame, steam locomotive, haul truck tire and large shovel bucket will be relocated.
ADMMR has also posted the full 27-page brochure from Gallagher & Associates, outlining their vision for the museum [right].

Photos from the gem show

Just want to share a few snapshots from the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show.     I'm heading back over in a few minutes to help close down the AZGS display booth and pack it up.

AIPG annual meeting reviews Arizona geo-agencies

The Arizona Chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists held their annual business meeting in Tucson yesterday, hosted here at the AZGS.  The meeting also continued their tradition of reviewing aspects of the geoscience community in Arizona, this year hearing updates from state and federal agencies.

Former State Geologist Larry Fellows received a special award for his contributions to the AIPG chapter and the geologic community.  Outgoing chapter secretary Dave Palmer was also recognized by president Erick Weiland for many years dedicated service to the group.  [right, ADWR Assistant Director Frank Corkhill offers a briefing on water programs]

AZGS videotaped the proceedings and plans on posting the entire meeting online in the near future.

Tanzanite is talk of the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

Three different prominent mineral collectors told me to make sure I saw the tanzanite exhibit on the main floor of the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show yesterday.   My amateur snapshots don't do it justice.

In addition, John Rankovan, helping staff the Mineralogical Society of America booth, showed me a beautiful  diopside crystal from a new discovery in the tanzanite deposit in Zambia.  It was brilliant green and more transparent and clear than any either of us have seen.

Last day of the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

The past two weeks have been complete sensory overload here in Tucson but things pretty much wrap up as the formal Tucson Gem & Mineral Show closes at 5 pm today.    I spent yesterday afternoon on the main floor on Saturday afternoon, looking at the exhibits and chatting with friends and colleagues.

A surprise was to bump into former Wyoming State Geologist Lance Cook at the Collector's Edge booth.  Lance and company owner Steve Behling were in grad school together and Lance has been helping out at the Tucson show for most of the past three decades.

They took me over to one of the show highlights - a stunning set of Zambian emeralds in a quartz matrix.  It their crew 3 months to painstakingly dig the specimen out of a giant quartz block, without damaging or breaking the slender crystals.  The asking price - $100,000

$230 million deal for future silver and gold sales from Rosemont mine

Augusta Resources announced a signed deal with Vancouver-based mining company Silver Wheaton in which they will pay Augusta upfront cash payments totaling US$230 million and payments of US$3.90 per ounce of silver and US$450 per ounce of gold delivered from the Rosemont mine during the mine life, effective once the mine is fully permitted.

This will cover about 25% of Rosemont's expected $890 million capital cost.  The rest is expected to be financed from project debt. Silver Wheaton gets a long term contract for silver and gold at greatly reduced price compared to today's markets.

Augusta also has a new 30-second animated video clip showing a 3-D block model of the mineral deposit and proposed pit.

Geothermal power plant proposed near St. Johns, Arizona

The New York Times reported last week about a proposal made last Fall to use carbon dioxide produced from a geologic reservoir in the St. John's area of eastern Arizona as the driving fluid in a geothermal power plant.  Enhanced Oil Resources which is developing the CO2 and helium in the St. John's area, partnered with GreenFire Energy out of Utah, to propose a test of new technology.

The companies said they planned to drill four test wells in 2010, although no permits have yet been filed with the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission which will have to approve the applications.

The companies anticipate sufficient heat at depth that naturally-produced CO2 would be run through a heat-exchanger just like steam is in a traditional geothermal power system, and then re-injected into the rock.

"Y-crack" earth fissure re-opens near Queen Creek

The well-known "Y-crack" earth fissure near Queen Creek, south of Phoenix, re-opened last month following heavy rainstorms.   The area at the corner of Happy Rd and 195th is in unincorporated Maricopa County but  the Town of Queen Creek's Utilities Department is responsible for the water delivery system in the area.  The hole opened around four residential water valves.  It is approximately 20 feet deep according to city's public works staff.

This same location opened in August 2005 across a much longer extent and helped precipitate the passage of the legislation that directs AZGS to map and make public earth fissure maps.    [right, telephone pole used to suspend water lines in earth fissure.  Photo credit, Joe La Fortune, Town of Queen Creek]

Some confusion over the mining/mineral museum transfer

Over at the Tucson Gem & Mineral  Show this morning a colleague told me he spoke with ADMMR Director Madan Singh last night about HB2617 reportedly being amended to carry the language transferring the mineral museum [right] to the State Historical Society.

He said Madan either mis-spoke or was mis-understood at Saturday's AIPG business meeting in Tucson.  The proposed transfer is apparently not going to be made via an amendment to this existing bill.  How it will be handled is not evident at the moment.   

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Astronaut view of southern Arizona copper mines

 Astronauts on the International Space Station shot this photo of three southern Arizona copper mines on January 14, 2010.

They posted the following caption online:

Open Pit Mines, Southern Arizona

Copper is a good conductor of electricity and heat, and it is a vital element of virtually all modern electronic devices. Arizona is the United States’ largest source of copper, primarily mined from a type of ore body known as porphyry copper deposits. The most common approach to extracting metal-bearing ore from a porphyry copper deposit is by open-pit mining, although such mines also typically include some underground activities.

This astronaut photograph illustrates three open-pit mines located west-northwest of the town of Green Valley, Arizona. While the mines appear to be close to each other, each exploits a separate porphyry copper deposit. A porphyry copper deposit forms when crystal-rich magma moves upwards through pre-existing rock layers. As the magma cools and crystallizes, it forms an igneous rock with large crystals embedded in a fine-grained matrix, known as porphyry. Hot fluids circulate through the magma and surrounding rocks via fractures, depositing copper-bearing and other minerals in characteristic spatial patterns that signal the nature of the ore body to a geologist.

The mine pits are recognizable by the concentric lines of benches cut into the pit sides. The benches allow equipment and personnel access to the fresh ore (gray) exposed at the bottom of the excavation. Water may also pool at the bottom of inactive pits, such as in the Twin Buttes Mine at image upper right (black areas). The open pit areas are surrounded by an array of sculpted tailings ponds and mine dump areas; these receive mine waste rock for storage and later leaching for further recovery of metals. The green color of the water in the tailings pond at image right is likely due to the presence of leached metals.

The Asarco-Mission complex (image left) is an active producer of copper and molybdenum (important in making steel and other metal alloys), processing approximately 53,700 tons of ore per day (as of 2008). The Twin Buttes Mine (image top right), also a producer of copper and molybdenum, was closed in 1994 but was recently purchased by a new owner (Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold) and may reopen. The Sierrita Mine at image lower right (also owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold) produces copper, molybdenum, and the rare metal rhenium. Rhenium is used to make high-temperature alloys for jet engine parts and in high-octane, lead-free gasoline. This mine can process over 115,000 tons of ore per day (as of 2007).

[right, NASA image ISS022-E-26137. Image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center]

Arizona snowpack at 232% of 30-year average; near-record streamflows expected
Statewide, the Feb. 1 snowpack in Arizona measured at 232% of the 30-year average according to the National Resource Conservation Service.   As a result of this and other climatic factors, the forecast calls for near record streamflow levels for all of Arizona’s major rivers for the spring runoff period.  This could mean significant potential for flooding.

NRCS says "On the Salt River near Roosevelt, the runoff forecast calls for 239 percent of median streamflow levels (850,000 acre-feet) for the February-May forecast period. On the Verde River above Horseshoe Dam, the long-term runoff prediction calls for 275 percent of median streamflow levels (550,000 acre-feet). On the Little Colorado River above Woodruff, streamflow is forecast at 429 percent of the 30-year median.  [right, Roosevelt Dam. Credit, SRP]

"As of Feb. 1, the combined Salt River Project (SRP) reservoir system is at 93 percent of capacity with 2,162,000 acre-feet in storage. San Carlos Lake stands at only seven percent of capacity with 64,000 acre-feet in storage."

February 1, 2010 snowpack levels, (percent of 30-yr. average):
Salt River Basin 233%
Verde River Basin 266%
San Francisco-Upper Gila River Basin 222%
Little Colorado River Basin 234%
Central Mogollon Rim 241%
Chuska Mountains 191%
Grand Canyon 139%
San Francisco Peaks 209%
Statewide Snowpack 232%

Update on Mining & Mineral Museum

Yesterday's announcement by Gov. Brewer that the the Arizona Mining & Mineral Museum will be converted into the Arizona Centennial Museum by 2012 is generating a lot of buzz and questions in the geoloy, mining, and mineral collecting communities.    Throughout the day at the AIPG meeting and the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, there has been a steady stream of questions and conjectures about the plans.

At the annual business meeting of the Arizona Chapter of AIPG this morning (held at the AZGS offices in Tucson), ADMMR Director Dr. Madan Singh provided additional information.    He said the "Five C's" concept will not restrict the mining and mineral part of the new museum to only copper but all minerals and the state's mining history.    Because minerals will have just a portion of the museum, only a part of the collection will be on display at any given time and the displays will rotate.   Part of the collection will be displayed in the Governor's office on the 9th floor.

He also stated the the Dept of Mines and Mineral Resources will stay intact although he expects the non-museum staff to be moved in the state government Executive Tower along with all of their existing mining maps and records.

Madan said he believes the necessary legislation is being added as an amendment to HB2617 which was scheduled to have a hearing at 2pm Monday, Feb 15 in the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.  However, a check of the committee schedule late this afternoon shows that that bill has been pulled from the agenda.  No amendments are shown to the original bill. 

Audience members at the AIPG meeting raised questions about the future of the large part of the collection which is on loan to the museum.   There were also questions and sidebar conversations about how mining and minerals will be portrayed in the Centennial Museum. A lot of folks are viewing the architects drawings as very preliminary and likely to be dramatically different by the time the museum is completed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mineral museum to be converted to Centennial Museum

Gov. Jan Brewer announced this morning the the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum will become the Arizona Centennial Museum for the State's 2012 celebration.  The museum will be transferred from the Arizona Dept of Mines and Mineral Resources to the Centennial Commission then subsequently to the Arizona Historical Society.

The new Centennial Museum will showcase Arizona's "5 C's" - copper, cattle, citrus, climate, and cotton.