Saturday, October 29, 2011

Park Service releases digital geologic map of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

The National Park Service has released the Digital Geologic Map of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Vicinity, Utah and Arizona (GRI MapCode GLCA), which is posted at

The GLCA map covers in extent all of the park, as well as Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and portions of Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Canyon National Park. The map is also available in KMZ/KML format for use in Google Earth.

The map is produced by the NPS Geologic Resources Division as part of the Geologic Resources Inventory (GRI) program. In addition to the digital geologic maps, the GRI program also produces geologic reports that tie the digital geologic map to the geologic features, issues, and processes relevant to geologic resource management. The report for GLCA is forthcoming.

[taken in part from the NPS announcement]

Mining a bright spot in national jobs picture, Arizona economy

The National Mining Association reports that "according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in one year – between June 2010 and 2011 – coal mining jobs grew 7.6 percent, metals mining jobs grew 3.9 percent, and jobs in support activities for mining grew at a rate of 19.2 percent."

Meanwhile, value of mineral production in Arizona rose to $6.972 billion in 2010, up from $5.680 billion in 2009, a 23% increase, as noted in the 2010 Arizona Mining Review, authored by AZGS minerals geologist Nyal Niemuth this week in our online news magazine, Arizona Geology.

The value of Arizona's non-fuel mineral production totaled $6.7 billion in 2010 according to preliminary USGS figures. This was 10.5% of the United States' total, making Arizona the number two producer in the nation. Principal commodities mined were copper, molybdenum, sand and gravel, cement and crushed stone. In addition, Arizona coal production added another $273 million bringing the total mined value to nearly $7 billion.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ASU planetary geologist Ron Greeley, 1939-2011

Arizona State University reports that Ronald Greeley, a Regents’ Professor of planetary geology at ASU, who has been involved in lunar and planetary studies since 1967 and has contributed significantly to our understanding of planetary bodies within our solar system, died Oct. 27, in Tempe. He was 72. [right, credit ASU]

Greeley began teaching at ASU in 1977 with a joint professorship in the department of geology and the Center for Meteorite Studies. He studied wind processes on Earth and other planets and conducted photogeological mapping of planets and satellites among other research projects. In 1986, Greeley left the Center for Meteorite Studies to serve as chair of the department of geology.

Greeley, a pioneer in the planetary geology field, served as the director of the NASA-ASU Regional Planetary Image Facility and principal investigator of the Planetary Aeolian Laboratory at NASA-Ames Research Center. He served on and chaired many NASA and National Academy of Science panels and he was involved in nearly every major space probe mission flown in the solar system since the Apollo Moon landing. Mission projects included the Galileo mission to Jupiter, Magellan mission to Venus and Shuttle Imaging Radar orbiter around Earth. He was also part of the data analysis program for the Voyager 2 mission to Uranus and Neptune. His projects focused on the moons of these distant bodies. Passionate about Mars exploration, he has been involved with several missions to the Red Planet, including Mariner (6, 7, 9), Viking, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Exploration Rovers. He is a co-investigator for the camera system onboard the European Mars Express mission.

A Facebook page dedicated to Professor Greeley will also be updated with related information:

[this post is excerpted from the memorial posted by Nikki Cassis]

Merger of BLM and Office of Surface Mining

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has initiated a process to merge the Bureau of Land Management and the Office of Surface Mining by March 2012. Public Lands News reports that "Under the reorganization BLM and OSM would combine four functions: (1) regulation, inspection and enforcement, (2) OSM’s Abandoned Mine Lands program and BLM’s surface management programs, (3) administrative support functions, and (4) fee collections." [right, BLM lands. Credit, National Map]

BLM historically has managed public lands in the western states, while OSM focused on Eastern coal mining and reclamation on private lands. BLM says they administer 12.2 million surface acres of public lands in Arizona, along with another 17.5 million subsurface acres within the state.

The news story says the merger is going forward without asking for Congressional approval.

Sand dunes movement and growth on Navajo Nation

A new fact sheet from the USGS notes that "Recurring drought and rising temperatures have caused reactivation and renewed growth of sand dunes on the lands of the Navajo Nation on the Colorado Plateau. Migrating dunes threaten health, housing, and transportation pathways."

Ref: Redsteer, M.H, Bogle, R.C., and Vogel, J.M., 2011, Monitoring and analysis of sand dune movement and growth on the Navajo Nation, southwestern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2011–3085, 2 p., available at

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Renewable energy and geology in Arizona

I had the privilege of giving the keynote address to the Shlemon Specialty Conference in Tempe this morning on "Opportunities for Alternative Energy Development in Arizona and the Southwest– Geologic/Hydrologic Considerations." The event was organized by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG) and the Arizona Land Subsidence Group. The technical conference drew about 110 attendees from geotechnical companies, utilities, and energy developers.

I offered an overview of the types and locations of proposed renewable energy projects or areas of potential development, along with a summary of the types of geologic hazards that occur in Arizona and surrounding states, that need to be factored in construction.

There was a strong focus in subsequent presentations during the day on subsidence and Earth fissures and their potential impacts. Ralph Weeks, with GeoSouthwest, LLC, listed 25 solar energy projects in various stages of development in Arizona, noting that 17 of them, or about 70%, are located in areas subject to subsidence and fissures. [right, solar energy potential. Credit, National Renewable Energy Lab]

Among the impacts Ralph identified as possible impacts on solar energy projects include:
  • roads, power conveyances, and buried utilities
  • structural foundations
  • solar collectors (which have to be carefully aligned to focus their light onto the central tower)
He also talked about additional information needed to identify and characterize Earth fissures:
  • basin shape and alluvium thicknesses
  • timing, magnitude, and distribution of past subsidence
  • mechanics of Earth fissure formation and activity
  • future groundwater declines
  • anthropomorphic impacts
  • soft shallow soils concealing buried Earth fissures

Land swap for Resolution Copper mine passes U.S. House

The House voted along party lines to approve the swap of 5,350 acres of lands they acquired for their conservation value, for 2,422 acres of federal lands needed for the proposed Resolution Copper underground mine to be developed [right]. Resolution Copper is a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP, the two biggest mining companies in the world. The mine is projected to produce 20-25% of the total U.S. copper demand for as much as 40 years.

The House debate turned acrimonious over challenges made by mine opponents that Rio Tinto owns a majority interest in a uranium mine in Namibia, that is also partly owned by an Iranian company. Supporters of the land exchange argued that it would not affect sanctions on Iran. The bill must now go to the U.S. Senate.

Mining ban on federal lands advanced in northern Arizona

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has called for a 20 year ban on mineral exploration and mining on nearly 1 million acres of federal lands in northern Arizona, as the recommended alternative in the Environmental Impact Statement released yesterday. After Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar publicly chose that alternative when the Draft EIS was released this summer, it was widely expected that BLM would not challenge their boss. The EIS is open for public review [update: the original post said it was open for comment. In fact, no comments will be accepted but 'messages' may be sent to BLM. Comments would have to be recorded and considered in the evaluation] for 30 days, but with Salazar having already announced his decision, this appears to be moot.

BLM's preferred option is summarized:
Alternative B, the Proposed Action: the proposed withdrawal would be implemented and the entire 1,006,545 acres of federal locatable mineral estate within the three parcels would be withdrawn for 20 years from operation of the Mining Law, subject to valid existing rights. New exploration and mine development proposals could continue to be authorized by the BLM or the Forest Service only on mining claims where valid existing rights are determined to exist, in accordance with applicable laws. The mitigation of potential effects from exploration or development would continue under the applicable surface managing agency regulations. This is also the Preferred Alternative selected by the Secretary after review of public comment on the Draft EIS.
Although this alternative would allow activity on 'valid existing claims' Interior Dept. officials earlier this year indicated they could reinterpret the laws to require proof of the presence of economically recoverable minerals before any exploration would be allowed on those claims. However, since the purpose of exploration is to prove up those resources, such an approach would de facto halt exploration and possible subsequent mining.

If Interior pursues this course, mining companies say they will fight it aggressively. They argue it would effectively halt all exploration on federal lands nationwide.

One BLM officlal told me during the EIS preparation process that they expected to be sued over their decision, by whichever side 'lost.'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chino Valley earthquake felt across region

A magnitude 3.6 earthquake was felt from the Chino Valley to Winslow and as far south as Phoenix. The quake occurred at 11:20 a.m. local time today, 18 miles NNW of Prescott. [right, location map of quake - star - with historical quakes shown as small orange dots. Credit, USGS]

As of 8 pm tonight, 540 people have reported they felt the event on the USGS website.

The area has had little historical seismic activity.

AZGS recently posted two short videos on fault activity on the Little Chino and Big Chino faults.

update 10-16: The Prescott Courier reports that the magnitude is revised to 3.2 and the location based on additional analysis by Dr. David Brumbaugh at the Arizona Earthquake Information Center at Northern Arizona University.

Joint venture announced for Holbrook basin potash

Passport Potash announced a joint venture this morning with one of the other two big lease holders exploring for potash in the Holbrook basin:

Passport Potash, Inc. has signed a letter of intent to enter into binding agreements under which NZ Potash, LLC will sell to Passport its 50% ownership interest in HNZ Potash, LLC. Passport and HNZ Potash will strive to jointly develop their combined potash properties in the Holbrook Basin.

When combined the properties will contain over 200,000 acres of mineral rights and will cover over 300 square miles. Following the release of Passport's NI 43-101 from SRK containing an exploration potential, the Company intends to jointly prepare an NI 43-101 resource report with HNZ Potash. Exploration activities of the combined companies that have been completed to date consist of over 50 drilled wells and over 100 lines miles of 2D seismic.

To view the combined properties, please click on the following link:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Demos of our geothermal data network

The Geothermal Resources Council annual meeting launched last night here in San Diego in partnership with the Geothermal Energy Association industry trade show. AZGS has an exhibit booth where project manager Kim Patten and I are running demos of the State Geothermal Data project.

AZGS is the prime contractor of the largest Dept. of Energy Geothermal project in the country, to digitize data from state geological surveys in all 50 states, and add them to the National Geothermal Data System. AZGS is also a subcontractor to build the data integration platform for the NGDS.

Our online catalog now has over 34,000 data resources, linked to over 600,000 data sets hosted by state surveys around the country. That number is growing weekly and will continue to do so for the next two years while we populate the emerging system.

The sprawling Town & Country Hotel where the meeting is being held is sold out and overflow attendees are being sent to other nearby hotels. We had a steady stream of visitors to our booth all evening long and lots of interest from others in adding their own data into the network. The meeting reflects the excitement in the geothermal industry.

Technical talks begin today. On Tuesday, Dave Blackwell and his team from Southern Methodist Univ. in Dallas, will present their new geothermal potential map for Arizona and New Mexico. We'll post updates.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Strike at giant Freeport mine in Indonesia could impact global production warns that "the strike and unrest at Freeport's Grasberg operation in Indonesia could, if they continue and by virtue of the mine's size and output, have an important impact on global production of both copper and gold."

Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold
is the dominant owner of the multi-billion dollar Grasberg project, which is "the world's second-largest copper mine, and holds more gold and copper reserves than any other mine in the world." [right, credit Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold]

"Freeport-McMoRan managers, national staff, contractors and some union workers" are reported to be operating the Grasberg mine during the strike.

"Before the strike, Freeport Indonesia's copper output was forecast to be 1 billion pounds in 2011, from 1.2 billion last year. Gold sales are expected to hit 1.3 million ounces this year, versus 1.8 million ounces in 2010 and 2.5 million ounces in 2009."

Prescott challenges Verde River groundwater model

Prescott-area water officials are challenging the use of a recently completed USGS groundwater model for the Verde River system. Bill Meyer, "a retired USGS hydrologist with more than 40 years' experience in quantifying groundwater resources and the impact of wells on rivers," serves as a volunteer advisor to local groups in the area. He wrote a column in today's Prescott Courier, explaining the value of the model in light of "the unwillingness of Prescott-area officials to use the model for one of its major intended purposes, i.e., to assist state and local officials in the management of their groundwater resources."

Meyer explains that:
Hydrologists are united in the concept that groundwater and surface water are a single resource. Thus pumping of groundwater will ultimately reduce the amount of water flowing to our springs, streams and rivers. It is clear from studies performed and data collected by the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the USGS that ground water pumping has reduced the flow of the Verde River. As pumping increases, this reduction will continue to increase over time. Unfortunately, the state of Arizona does not recognize the fact that groundwater and surface water are hydrologically connected and from a legal standpoint, essentially manages them as two separate entities. This fact significantly limits the ability of the state or individuals to protect Arizona's two remaining high priority rivers, the San Pedro and the Verde.
Also read: Prescott-area officials want to nix Verde groundwater model

Ancient river channels on Mars

It's been a while since I checked in at the UA HiRISE web site to see what new images are coming back from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. And as they often are, there are some amazing pictures. This one of Cerberus Fossae looks like a channel full of clear blue water. The HiRISE Science Team has this to say about it:
This small fossa segment cuts the channel of Athabasca Valles, and post-dates the youngest of Mars' outflow channels. A "fossa" is a cavity or depression.

Floods of water and lava are thought to have emanated from the larger fossae nearby, perhaps forming the Athabasca channel and later filling it with lava. Comparison with the larger fossa segments at the Athabasca Valles head may reveal whether this will be a source of a future flood.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Geology and the Saguaro National Park BioBlitz

Did you know that ocotillo likes to grow on limestone? When you see dense clusters of ocotillo, there's a good chance that it's limestone below the surface.

AZGS staff are participating in the BioBlitz at Saguaro National Park today and Saturday, helping explain the role of geology in the distribution of flora and fauna. BioBlitz is a 24 hour taxonomic inventory in the park carried out by the public under the guidance of National Geographic and the National Park Service, together with Friends of Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. [right, Saguaro NP Superintendent Darla Sidles accepting the BioBlitz flag from Biscayne National Park for the 2011 BioBlitz]

ASU in space

Arizona State University is involved in 7 space missions currently, with more in the wings. The new issue of the ASU School of Earth & Space Exploration's news magazine, SESE Source, has a number of stories about space, meteorites, and planetary exploration, including one on its space missions.

I was particularly taken by the image showing the range of missions across the solar system that ASU has been involved with [right].

Urban pressures on quarries spills over in Maricopa County

Proposed copper mines in Arizona are getting most of the news headlines these days, but a more common issue both here in Arizona and across the nation, is the encroachment of housing on sand and gravel quarries.

To be economically viable, quarries have to be as close as possible to where the materials are needed for construction. A rule of thumb is that for each 30-40 miles additional that sand, gravel, or aggregate must be hauled, the price doubles. And that dramatically increases the cost of construction. So, quarry operators try to find areas adjacent to urban areas but away from areas that are likely to be developed in the near term. In fast growing Arizona, that hasn't always worked out, and many quarries are now surrounded by new residents who want the industrial operations shut down.

Such a controversy apparently has been brewing in the towns of El Mirage and Youngtown in Linknorthern Maricopa County, just west of Sun City. The area has undergone massive residential development, hemming in the Agua Fria River on all sides, including a long-established aggregate quarry. El Mirage is reported to have dropped a plan today to annex a 240 acre quarry owned by the Salt River Materials Group, which is owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The initial intent had been to give El Mirage more control over the mining operation. But the Arizona Republic reports that Youngtown residents were opposed to the annexation. [right, Google Map view of Agua Fria River between El Mirage, Youngtown, and Sun City]

Another possible factor, not mentioned in the news story, is a new state law that requires local governments to factor in aggregate and sand and gravel resource availability in their land use plans.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Planetary science theme of Fall lecture series at Biosphere

The Fall public lecture series at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 focuses on planetary science in honor of Mike Drake, UA Regents' Professor, director of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and head of the department of planetary sciences who died recently at the age of 65. UA says the talks will be held at Biosphere 2 every Saturday at noon from Oct. 22 through Dec. 10, with the exception of Nov. 26. They are included with the cost of tour admission.

Oct. 22: "The Early History of our Solar System" by Renu Malhotra, professor of planetary sciences; chair, theoretical astrophysics program, UA

Oct. 29: "The Planet Mercury: Now studied by NASA's MESSENGER Mission" by Ann L. Sprague, senior research associate, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA

Nov. 5: "Why did my cable TV almost go out? Can we blame the Sun?" by Joe Giacalone, professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA

Nov. 12: "Where Did All Earth's Water Come From?" by Ilaria Pascucci, assistant professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA

Nov. 19: "Phoenix Mars Mission-Next Step to the Future" by Patrick Woida, Raytheon Space Systems, formerly of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA

Dec. 3: "The OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission" by Dante S. Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, associate professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory/department of planetary sciences, UA

Dec. 10: "Asteroids, Ion Propulsion, and NASA's Dawn Mission to Vesta" by David A. Williams, faculty research associate, School of Earth and Space Exploration, ASU

Company withdraws Florence copper rezoning proposal

Curis Resources has withdrawn its request to the City of Florence to rezone its property to allow an in situ copper recovery project to begin on private lands, according to a report in the Phoenix Business Journal. They say company CEO Mike McPhie argues "the timetable for the mine’s development is still the same, but his company wants to get environmental permit approvals first from the U.S. EPA and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality before asking Florence for zoning approvals." [right, in situ model. Credit, Curis Resources]

The copper project has pitted large land owners and real estate developers against the copper company, with residents bombarded with conflicting claims about possible groundwater pollution, taxes, jobs, and forecasts about eventual residential and commercial development of lands around the copper site.

Dust storms and car accidents

Higher rainfall in Phoenix correlates with a dramatic decrease in car crashes caused by dust storms.

The USGS put out a short note following the October 4 dust storm in southern Arizona, noting that two contributing factors to such events are low vegetation cover and disturbance to soil surfaces.

Vegetation contributes to ecological integrity. The presence of plants reduces soil erosion and dust storms, because it keeps the soil intact, reduces wind momentum, and traps moving soil particles. In spaces between the plants, many undisturbed desert soils are naturally armored by hardened physical and biological crusts.

Low vegetation cover can especially be a problem in drought years in abandoned agricultural fields, which are generally dominated by annual plants. This means that the consequences of dust storms, including motor vehicle crashes, are high in a drought year and low in years with more precipitation.

ASU's Center for Meteorite Studies marks 50 years

The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University celebrates its 50 years of cutting edge meteoritical research, as well as building world class meteorite collection on Friday, October 21.

The Center is offering a free evening lecture Friday night by Tim McCoy from the Smithsonian, on the NASA Dawn mission to asteroid 4 Vesta. When I checked a few minutes ago, a few tickets were still available. Go to

[left bottom photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA]

CMS is home to the world's largest university-based meteorite collection.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Report is upbeat on Holbrook basin potash potential

The potash resource assessment for American West Potash's holdings in the Holbrook basin is now available online. [right, location map from the report showing the AWP lands in yellow, relative to the potash limits in red] They report Indicated Resources on the company's 94,000 acres at 158 million metric tonnes of sylvinite, with about 16 MMT of K2O; and Inferred Resources of 560 MMT of sylvinite with just over 66 MMT of K2O. The 100-page study concludes:

  • AWP’s Project Area, when compared to other sedimentary basins hosting potash deposits, exhibits several positive factors that make it favourable for further potash exploration, resource delineation, and possible mine development.

  • The resource calculated at this time for the Project Area appears to be sufficient enough to support further detailed resource, process and PEA studies.

  • Potash resources appear to be of comparable grade, thickness and with low impurities, such as insolubles and carnallite, when compared to Intrepid’s Carlsbad Mine.
  • The potash beds in the Project Area occur at relatively shallow depths, less than 551 m (1600 ft).

  • Seasonal climate variations are minimal compared to Canadian and Russian potash operations which lower operation costs.

  • Unlike other parts of the world where potash is mined, there is no competition with the Oil and Gas industry in the Holbrook Area (Rauzi S. L., 2008).

  • The Project Area is close to very large, year round potash markets in Arizona, California and Mexico. The US imports more than 80 % of the potash it consumes and is the second largest consumer of potash in the world. The Project Area is close to four international export ports.

  • The state of Arizona supports the development of its mineral resources, works closely with the mining industry and has a favourable potash royalty structure.

  • The Project Area is in close vicinity to infrastructure including rail, major highways, gas and power.

  • The infill drilling program and additional exploration work should focus in the north central part of the Project Area. The historical work conducted by Rauzi (Rauzi S. L., 2008) and the updated potash isopach figures shown in Section 7.1 suggests that the potash may be of better quality in that part of the Project Area.

Public meetings rescheduled on Rosemont copper mine EIS

This announcement just in from the U.S. Forest Service:

Two public meetings regarding the Rosemont Copper Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will be rescheduled. The first and last meetings, scheduled to be held at the Desert Diamond Conference Center in Sahuarita, Arizona on October 22 and January 7, have been postponed and will be rescheduled.

The Coronado National Forest will soon accept public comments on the DEIS in a variety of formats. Six public meetings have been scheduled for informational and comment sessions.
Since the original planning for the meetings, it has come to Forest personnel’s attention that several meetings scheduled conflict with local events occurring on the same dates. To prevent
potential conflicts, the Forest is rescheduling meetings as needed.

The October 22 meeting, in Sahuarita, will be rescheduled to avoid potential conflicts with the National Park Service, Saguaro National Park’s BioBlitz, a major event with widespread community and interagency involvement. (Coronado National Forest volunteers will be among those who participate in the event.) To avoid potential conflicts for citizens who wish to attend the BioBlitz event and also participate in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process regarding the Rosemont Copper Project DEIS, the meeting will be rescheduled at a later date, to be announced.

The January 7 meeting, in Sahuarita, will be rescheduled to avoid potential conflicts with the daylong "Beyond" event to commemorate and celebrate those injured and lost on January 8, 2011 in Tucson. (The event includes activities at various locations including the Sabino Canyon
Recreation Area on the Coronado National Forest.) With respect for the victims and those
affected by what transpired that day, and to avoid potential conflicts for those who wish to
participate in the Beyond event and the NEPA process regarding the Rosemont Copper Project
DEIS, the Coronado will reschedule the meeting at a later date, to be announced.

The November 5 public meeting in Elgin, Arizona has already been rescheduled to December 10
to avoid potential conflicts with the Empire Ranch Foundation’s 11th Annual Roundup in Sonoita

The DEIS is available online at . Citizens are encouraged to review this
document before submitting comments. Although comments may be submitted in many ways,
citizens need only provide comments once for them to receive full consideration. The 90-day
comment period is expected to begin on October 22, following publication of the Environmental
Protection Agency’s Notice of Availability of the DEIS in the Federal Register.

The Coronado National Forest is planning to host the following public meetings to share
information about and take comments on the DEIS. Each meeting will include both
informational sessions and comment sessions. Oral statements made during the comment session will be recorded. Written comments will also be taken at the meetings. Citizens do not need to be present at any meetings to comment on the DEIS. Requirements for commenting may be found at 36 Code of Federal Regulations Part 215.

October 22, 2011, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. TO BE RESCHEDULED

November 12, 2011, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega, Tucson, AZ

November 19, 2011, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Empire High School, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way, Tucson, AZ

December 7, 2011, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Benson High School, 360 S. Patagonia Street, Benson, AZ

December 10, 2011, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Elgin Elementary School, 23 Elgin Rd., Elgin, AZ

January 7, 2012, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. TO BE RESCHEDULED

Brief oral comments can be made by calling toll-free (888) 654-6646.
Comments may be submitted electronically on the project website at by
following the link to “Commenting on the DEIS.”

Written comments may be mailed to: Rosemont Comments, P.O. Box 4207, Logan, UT 84323.
Written comments may also be submitted by facsimile to (435) 750-8799 and by electronic mail
(e-mail) to . The subject line of facsimiles and e-mails should
include the words “Rosemont Copper Project DEIS”. E-mail attachments should be in Word
(.docx), rich-text format (.rtf), or portable document format (.pdf).

For questions or special needs regarding the public meetings or the comment period, the public
may call (520) 388-8300 voice or (520) 388-8304 TTY.

Additional information about the Rosemont Copper Project DEIS is available online at .

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Small quake near Lake Mead this morning

A magnitude 2.1 earthquake occurred at 9:03 am local time south of Lake Mead and east of Boulder City, NV, according to the USGS.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unanimous vote to continue AZGS for 10 years

The Arizona Legislature's Committee of Reference voted unanimously this afternoon to endorse continuation of the Arizona Geological Survey for 10 years, the maximum allowed by law. The recommendation will be drafted into legislation that will be presented to the full Legislature in January.

AZGS's statutory authority expires on June 30, 2012, and the public hearing today was to decide whether to renew, terminate, or merge the Survey.

Our stakeholder community showed up in force to testify in support of continuing the Survey. They described the value of the data and reports we provide to industry, government, and academia, and the responsiveness of the Survey in meeting stakeholder needs.

Senator Jack Jackson commented that the large outpouring of support for the Survey made it easier for the Committee to come to their decision. He noted that no other agencies going through their own Sunset Reviews had this kind of public support from their constituencies.

So, thanks to all of you who spoke up on our behalf. And thanks to the staff of AZGS for the tremendous work they do, to meet the needs of Arizona and its people. We will continue to work hard to earn your respect, protect our communities from natural hazards, and pursue wise development of our resources for economic growth.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Small quake near Fredonia

A small earthquake of magnitude 1.6 was recorded 7 miles southeast of Fredonia near the Utah border, on Saturday, just before noon. [right, location map from the USGS]

Friday, October 14, 2011

Public hearing on the future of the Arizona Geological Survey

The Arizona Legislature invites public comment on whether the Arizona Geological Survey should continue, be terminated, or consolidated with another agency. This is the final step in the normal Sunset Review for all state agencies and boards. AZGS was last given a renewal 10 years ago, that expires June 30, 2012. A public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 pm, Monday, Oct. 17 at the State Senate in Phoenix. The AZ Dept. of Game & Fish Commission Sunset Review is up first, with AZGS expected to be considered around 2:30 pm.

A 10-member Legislative Committee of Reference is co-chaired by Sen. John Nelson and Rep. Kate Brophy-McGee. The Committee has until Dec. 1 to make their recommendations to the full Legislature, which will then be considered during the regular session beginning in January. However, it appears likely that the Committee will take action on Monday as to the future of AZGS.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pima County expenditures to oppose Rosemont copper mine

Pima County has reportedly spent over $65,000 on external "studies, analyses and a three-dimensional model" of the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita mountains southeast of Tucson, as part of their opposition to the project, according to the Green Valley News. This does not include the salaries and other costs of the county staff assigned to fight the mine. [right, location map courtesy Rosemont Copper]

The Forest Service Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] is expected to be released for public comment late this month.

UA's George Davis publishes new version of popular structural geology text

An updated version of the widely used text "Structural Geology" by UA geosciences professor emeritus George Davis was unveiled yesterday by its publisher John Wiley at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Minneapolis.

The previous edition of the book was published 16 years ago. The new edition should be available by mid-November.

USGS Director lays out critical need for State Geological Surveys

Marcia McNutt, Director of the USGS, told the AASG mid-year meeting attendees that the USGS needs to weigh in on the unprecedented challenges facing state geological surveys. She specifically called out the threats to shut down the Louisiana Geological Survey, saying if there was any state that has the needs for dynamic geological survey, it's Louisiana. AASG is meeting at the GSA annual meeting in Minneapolis.

Marcia said she and her senior management team are working on a strong public statement about the role and and importance of State Geological Surveys.

[cross-posted at]

Monday, October 10, 2011


We are here in Minneapolis at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, with 7,000 others, as one of the largest and most important scientific gatherings in the geosciences for the year.

Last night at the Presidential Awards ceremony, AZGS geologist Joe Cook was recognized as the winner of the John C. Frye Award for outstanding environmental geology publication. The award will be official given Tuesday morning to Joe, accepting on behalf of himself and co-authors.

AZGS scientists are authors on nine technical presentations being given this week. My talk on the State Geothermal Data network was the first one up, on Sunday morning.

We also rolled out publicly the first demonstration of the user interface for the geothermal data system at the State Geologist's booth in the exhibit hall. We'll be doing live demos and getting feedback through Wednesday.

We spent Saturday stranded at the Phoenix airport after our US Air flight from Tucson was delayed, causing us to miss our connection. It was 10 hours before they could find seats for us on another flight to Minneapolis. We finally got to the hotel at 1 am Sunday and had to scramble early Sunday morning to get the exhibit up and running before the hall officially opened. But everything is working well and the demos are attracting a lot of attention and discussion.

I'll try to provide updates over the next few days on what Arizona geologists are presenting here but there is so much going on and we have so many commitments, it's going to be a challenge to stay current.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Copper debate tearing apart Florence

Emotions are running hot over a proposal to produce copper from underground deposits in the town of Florence, using an in situ leaching process. We've received some of the most impassioned messages we've ever gotten, in opposition to the recovery operation, repeating concerns over water and contamination first raised by real estate developers who fear that the copper project will reduce the value of planned residential and commercial projects. [right, air photo of copper project site relative to developed areas. Credit, Curis Resources]. A recent report by Montgomery & Associates, paid for by the Town of Florence seemed to predict no substantial groundwater problems would be caused by the project but that has been rejected by mining opponents.

In advance of a Florence town hearing scheduled for early this evening, copper company Curis Resources announced it is creating a "multi-year, multi-million dollar economic development, community development and revitalization fund" tentatively named CREED — Copper Recovery Enhances Economic Development. The Florence Blade-Tribune reports that "the fund will benefit economic development, downtown revitalization, community service projects and charitable organizations in Florence and Pinal County."

Potash, parks, and water

Is there enough water in northeast Arizona to support anticipated growth, including possible potash mining in the Holbrook area? That question is posed by the Arizona Journal in the second part of a 3-part series on water use in Arizona that was published today, but they won't really answer the question until the next installment. The amount of water used in potential mining will depend on whether it's solution mining or underground operations. The former is much more water-intensive. [right, potash sample. Credit, USGS]

Also today, Cronkite News published a summary of the potash exploration around Holbrook with an emphasis on the possible impacts on Petrified Forest National Park. They confirmed an early report that "American West Potash has agreed to locate its surface facilities outside the park boundary with input from park officials.

They quote AWP president Pat Avery saying, “Our goal is to site a surface facility that absolutely can’t be seen from the park.”

Celebration of life in honor of Mike Drake

A celebration of life in honor of UA Regents' Professor and Director of the Lunar & Planetary Lab, Michael J. Drake is scheduled for Friday, November 4, 2011, at 2 p.m., followed by a reception. [right, photo credit UA Lunar & Planetary Lab]

The event will be on the UA campus in the OSIRIS-REx Building, 1415 N. 6th Ave., in Tucson.

Guests are encouraged to RSVP online by October 20:

We understand parking is limited so car-pooling is encouraged.

Mike died Sept. 21. He joined the UA planetary sciences faculty in 1973 and headed LPL and the planetary sciences department since 1994. He was the principal investigator of the most ambitious UA project to date, OSIRIS-REx, an $800 million mission designed to retrieve a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth. OSIRIS-REx is due to launch in 2016. It is the largest grant or contract the UA has ever received. His passing has drawn national attention.

[taken in part from the UA news release]

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Park Service geology report on Tumacacori

The National Park Service has released a Geologic Resources Inventory (GRI) report for Tumacacori National Historical Park (TUMA) in Arizona. The report is a companion document to the previously released digital geologic map data and aids in its use for resource management.  [right, cross section Geologic structural cross-section showing the Mount Benedict horst block and normal faults that separate the uplift from the Santa Cruz Valley to the west and the Santa Cruz River and Nogales International Airport to the east. This cross section is located approximately 500 m (1,500 ft) southwest of the Guevavi Unit. Normal faulting in the Basin and Range Province juxtaposed older Jurassic igneous rocks in the Mount Benedict horst (map units Jm and Jb) against younger Tertiary (Paleogene and Neogene) rocks in the basin (e.g., map unit Tnl). Graphic by Trista Thornberry-Ehrlich (Colorado State University). Section and caption from NPS]

The GRI report is written for resource managers to assist in resource management and science-based decision making, but may also be useful for interpretation. The report discusses potential geologic issues facing resource managers at the park, distinctive geologic features and processes present within the park, and the geologic history leading to the park’s present landscape. A map unit properties table summarizes the main features, characteristics, and potential management issues for all of the rock units on the geologic map.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The future of rare earth elements supplies

A new report from the USGS asks the question about the future of rare earth elements [REE]—will these high-tech industry elements continue in short supply?

Author Keith Long concludes that "REE will continue to find increasing use due to their unique properties. There is a realistic possibility around 2015-2016 of sufficient REE capacity to meet demand under conditions of healthy price competition. REE supplies will be tight and prices high for a few years. There is significant downside risk that newly developed mines will not perform as planned.

You can view a video presentation of this report that the author made on May 26, 2011 at the USGS Evening Public Lecture Series in Menlo Park, Calif. The report was produced at the USGS Western Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Tucson Office at the University of Arizona.

Origin of the Colorado River system

Abstracts from the workshop on the Origin and evolution of the Colorado River system, have been published by the USGS. [right, credit Grand Canyon NPS]

A 2010 Colorado River symposium, held in Flagstaff, Arizona, involved 70 participants who engaged in intense debate about the origin and evolution of the Colorado River system. This symposium, built upon two previous decadal scientific meetings, focused on forging scientific consensus, where possible, while articulating continued controversies regarding the Cenozoic evolution of the Colorado River System and the landscapes of the Colorado Plateau-Rocky Mountain region that it drains. New developments involved hypotheses that Neogene mantle flow is driving plateau tilting and differential uplift and new and controversial hypotheses for the pre-6 Ma presence and evolution of ancestral rivers that may be important in the history and birth of the present Colorado River. There is a consensus that plateau tilt and uplift models must be tested with multidisciplinary studies involving differential incision studies and additional geochronology and thermochronology to determine the relative importance of tectonic and geomorphic forces that shape the spectacular landscapes of the Colorado Plateau, Arizona and region. In addition to the scientific goals, the meeting participants emphasized the iconic status of Grand Canyon for geosciences and the importance of good communication between the research community, the geoscience education/interpretation community, the public, and the media. Building on a century-long tradition, this region still provides a globally important natural laboratory for studies of the interactions of erosion and tectonism in shaping the landscape of elevated plateaus.

CRevolution 2—Origin and evolution of the Colorado River system, workshop abstracts, USGS OFR 2011-1210,

Active Metal and Industrial Mineral Underground Mines in the United States, 2007-2009

The USGS released 3 annual reports on Active Metal and Industrial Mineral Underground Mines in the United States, for the years 2007, 2008, and 2009. No mines are reported in Arizona.

According to the latest report, "Total domestic mining and waste removal for nonfuel mineral materials production at underground operations was 138 million metric tons (Mt) in 2009. Crude ore mined at these underground operations was 136 Mt. The balance was waste removed, including ore and waste from development. Total underground mining for industrial minerals amounted to 123 Mt, nearly all of which was crude ore. Underground mining for metal ores and waste removal amounted to 15 Mt, of which 90% was crude ore."

Emergency declaration for Schultz post-fire flood area

Gov. Jan Brewer signed a Declaration of Emergency on Friday, in support of Coconino County response, recovery and mitigation efforts to protect property and infrastructure in the Schultz Flood area, in the Flagstaff area.

The declaration was signed in response to a heavy monsoon rainstorm that dropped more than 1 inch of rain within 15 minutes in the Timberline, Hutchison Acres and Wupatki Trails neighborhoods on Sept. 13, 2011, causing significant street flooding and damage. Flood waters also undermined the utility of previously placed protective structures. Major construction is required to restore them to their pre-disaster condition.

These neighborhoods are among the areas where monsoon season flooding has been most prevalent since the Schultz Fire of 2010. [right, home owners efforts to divert flood waters, Aug, 2010. My photo]

Gov. Brewer is authorized under state statute to declare a state of emergency and release an initial $200,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund. This money will be used to pay for emergency response costs and to repair public infrastructure, such as the roads that suffered damage as a result of this event. These funds are not available to repair individual homes.

Coconino County continues to supply sandbags to property owners in high flood-risk areas. Residents with questions can call the Schultz Flood hotline at 877-679-8390.

[taken from the AZ Div. of Emergency Mgmt, Emergency Information Network]

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Tiny quake in NW Arizona

There was a small earthquake last Thursday on what appears to be the southern extent of the Hurricane fault in northwestern Arizona.

[right, star marks epicenter, amidst historical earthquakes in the region. Credit, USGS]