Saturday, January 13, 2007

Governor calls for Mineral Resources program at AZGS

Gov. Napolitano’s budget proposes funding a renewed effort in AZGS for a Mineral Resource Development Program.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the AZGS budget at 9am, Monday, January 22 in room SHR109.

Governor’s proposal for the Mineral Resources Development Program
The Governor’s budget plan states, “The Geological Survey provides a State service that critically affects growth and development, as major industries and growing communities require reliable maps and data. The Executive recommends $96,600 and 1.0 FTE position in FY 2008 and $149,700 and 1.0 FTE position in FY 2009 to allow the Survey to better provide technical support to State agencies, local governments and the public on strategic mineral planning and natural resource issues. The recommendation for FY 2008 includes funding for a hardrock minerals geologist and $20,000 in ongoing professional and outside services. The FY 2009 recommendation provides one more FTE position, a database manager to develop a system for interoperability among state mineral resources and compile a central repository for all of the state’s mineral information.”

The proposal would restore the AZGS capability in mineral resources, working with one of the largest sectors in the state economy, to assess the technical, economic, and environmental impacts of resource development, to advise state and local agencies on resource issues, identify mineral resources, and expand our repository capacity for geologic samples. This initiative is consistent with the AZGS Mission Statement: “To inform and advise the public about the geologic character of Arizona in order to foster understanding and prudent development of the State's land, water, mineral, and energy resources”

Minerals are a major economic sector in Arizona: The value of nonfuel mineral production in Arizona in 2005 was $4.730 billion, which was 9.17% of the U.S. total, and made Arizona the number one producer in the nation and number one in copper and molybdenum production specifically. Coal production added another $300 million to bring the total to $5 billion (1).

Arizona accounts for 63% of U.S copper production and the state’s copper industry has a $3.5 billion direct and indirect impact on the Arizona economy. Seven Arizona counties had active copper mining in 2005. Arizona also ranks among the leaders in gemstones, perlite, sand and gravel, silver, and zeolites.

“Rock products produced in Arizona include sand, gravel, and crushed stone, cement, asphalt, and ready-mix concrete and are directly tied to economic growth, building activity, and repair and expansion of transportation infrastructure. Production of rock products in 2004 resulted in a direct and indirect economic impact of $3.5 billion resulting in the support of 25,190 jobs. Rock products had a direct payroll expenditure of $364 million covering 9,388 jobs” (2).

There is a strongly renewed interest in exploration for copper and uranium across the state and region. Industry is looking for any and all information to help them in the search for new reserves. State Lands have potential for both hard rock and industrial minerals.

Land use planning and continued economic growth need good minerals and geologic information: Mining is regulated at the local level where geologic expertise is generally not available. Industrial mineral deposits and operations are increasingly under pressure from urbanization, at the same time the demand for the resources is growing to meet development needs. In other states, lack of resource assessment and planning has resulted in big increases for building and infrastructure costs. Studies done in Minnesota (4, 5) are applicable nationwide. They found that gravel is expensive to transport. At about 15 cents per ton per mile, a standard 25-ton truckload will cost $37.50 to haul 10 miles but $187.50 to haul 50 miles. The gravel itself costs about $6.50 per ton. So transportation costs exceed the cost of the rock at transportation distances of about 44 miles.

Construction of a new home requires about 120 tons of aggregate, which is used in everything from the driveway to concrete blocks, paint, sheet metal and roofing tiles. The construction of a typical “big box” retail store will require about 50,000 tons of aggregate. One mile of four-lane highway uses about 20,000 tons of aggregate (5).

Thus, when local sand and gravel quarries close in an urban area, the cost to bring resources from outside the urban zone can cause a significant increase in building costs due to transportation. It is important to determine the location and extent of mineral resources early in land use planning.

Environmental impacts of mining: Mining operations are considerably cleaner and less polluting than in the early days of the state but many are also much larger and use new approaches that have potentially serious consequences if not managed and regulated correctly. There are also numerous old mines and tailings that operated before comprehensive regulations were in place.

It is important to analyze the aqueous geochemistry of mine tailings and surrounding basins for potential impacts on groundwater from such things as sulfate plumes.

Arizona has limited ability to deal with mineral issues:
AZGS lost its last position in Mining/Economic Geology due to budget cuts in 2002. Arizona is unique among western mining states in not having the ability to carry out unbiased scientific and technical assessments of mineral resources and their impacts in the state. It is especially concerning in that Arizona was the number one minerals producing state in the nation in 2005 and is also one of the fasting growing states, resulting in dramatic increase in demands for industrial minerals and consequent land use conflicts. Arizona is also a prime exploration target for minerals such as copper and uranium. Other states with strong mining sectors in the economy have state geological surveys that are primarily focused on minerals issues, such as Nevada and Idaho, whereas Arizona has strongly downsized its capacity in the last 15 years to handle mineral resources challenges, problems, and potential.

For the past decade, AZGS activities in mineral resources has been largely restricted to detailed geologic mapping in the state, identified by the mining industry as one of the most important contributions we can make to their exploration and development programs. However, in recent years, the Survey’s external mapping advisory committee has directed us to focus on natural hazards mapping in urban and urbanizing areas.

Stakeholder recommendations: We consulted with leaders in Arizona’s mining industry, relevant state agencies, and professional and trade groups. Their recommendations have been integrated with those from our last external agency review (5) and can be summarized into four core areas:

1. Identify and characterize key mineral reserves, both metallic and industrial, in currently developed areas and areas with potential for development

This would include mapping of deposits and mineral districts, analytical work on
samples including petrology, age-dating, geochemistry, fluid inclusions, thin
sections, plus reserve calculations and estimates, and economic impact analyses.
This would be done in co-operation with the Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral
Resources which maintains an extensive collection of reports, analyses, and
historical data.

2. Create map-based (GIS) data sets and make them available online. This would include setting up an enterprise geo-database using a network server with internet map services (IMS) and GIS-based web services. We are already in consultation with the State Cartographer’s Office to ensure interoperability between AZGS datasets and the State’s GIS clearinghouse products in accordance with ARS 37-173.

3. Educational outreach to state agencies, local government, and the general public on strategic mineral planning and natural resource issues.

This would include serving as technical advisors to state and local agencies, providing materials and briefings on mineral economics, environmental impacts, and resource availability. We would draw on help to achieve this from staff soon to be hired in the AZGS Geologic Extension Service, a newly created section reprogrammed with internal resources.

4. Preserve and analyze mineral and geologic samples (mostly cores) at risk of being destroyed or disposed of, as an exploration resource.

This requires acquisition of warehouse space for additional samples and examination space, plus hiring of a geo-technician to maintain the facility, selectively acquire new samples, and work with industry and other researchers to prepare and analyze samples.

References Cited

1. Arizona 2005 Mining Review, Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, 2006, 6p.

2. Natural Resources Impact, Mining Foundation of the Southwest, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2005.

3. Aggregate Resources Inventory of the Seven-County Metropolitan Area, Minnesota, Minnesota Geological Survey, Information Circular 46, 2000, 91p.

4. Gravel – Bedrock of Growth, Minnesota Star-Tribune, June 16, 2002

5. Report of the Arizona Geological Survey Review Committee, by the American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arizona section, AZGS Open-file Report 97-20, 1997, 67p.

No comments:

Post a Comment