Monday, January 31, 2011

DOE funds available for tribal renewable energy

The U.S. Dept. of Energy is making up to $10 million available this year through the DOE’s Tribal Energy Program "to support the evaluation, development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on tribal lands that will help save energy and money, expand the use of renewable energy resources, and promote economic development for tribal communities."

Arizona tribes have received support for a dozen projects since the mid-'90's. One is the Hualapai Valley Solar project in Mohave County [right].

Solar manufacturing plant opens in Phoenix

Another renewable energy boost for Arizona with a major plant opening in Phoenix today.

The news release by Power-One, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of solar power inverters for the renewable energy industry, announced that they opened "its first North American manufacturing facility in Phoenix that will eventually employ 350 people. Power-One’s Phoenix facility will produce its photovoltaic (PV) and wind inverters that convert renewable energy into a usable form of electricity for distribution on the utility grid.

The facility will reach a capacity of 1 gigawatt of product by the end of the year with available site capacity reaching 4 gigawatts, which would generate enough electricity to power up to two million homes. The inverters manufactured at this facility will be installed in residential, commercial and utility settings."

And geothermal, Mr. President!

President Obama did not say the words "geothermal energy" explicitly in his State of the Union speech, but his intent could not be clearer. Geothermal runs 24/7, is one of the cleanest energy sources, is economically competitive already, and electricity is being produced at lower and lower temperatures. Beyond that, the use of geothermal for heating and cooling directly rather than production of electricity is still in its infancy.

So, Mr. President, I accept your challenge and humbly suggest that geothermal energy is one of our greatest resource opportunities for meeting America's goals of clean domestic energy.

From the President's speech:
"So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.

Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."

New legislation covers water, aggregate, trust lands, etc

There's a swath of new bills introduced today in the Arizona Legislature. As usual, I see some that may be of interest to the geoscience community:

SB1427 - flood control districts construction projects
SB1432 - trust land exchanges
SB1470 - county water authorities, section repeal
SB1496 - aggregate resources
SB1522 - harvested water
SB1531 - state parks director and board appointment
SB1533 - renewable energy and water harvesting improvement districts
SB1545 - intrastate nuclear reactor fuel production

Red rocks of Utah and Mars - talk this Friday

My long-time friend and colleague, Margie Chan, professor at the University of Utah, will be in town this week and is giving a talk at the Univ. of Arizona on Friday, entitled “Red Rock and Water on Earth and Mars.” The talk will take place on campus in Gould-Simpson Rm 209 at 12:30pm.

Margie is a stratigrapher-sedimentologist, who has worked extensively in southern Utah. When the Mars Rovers landed and sent back photos of small "blueberry"-like concretions from the red planet, she immediately recognized them as identical to prolific "Moqui marbles" concretions formed by groundwater precipitation of hematite in Utah [right, credit Univ. of Utah].

Her work helped convince scientists of the existence, at least in the geologic past, of the importance of water on Mars.

She tells a great story about the science and the thrill of discovery.

She also introduced my wife and I to each other.

Chinese negotiating use of Mt. Hopkins telescope

"The National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is negotiating with four world-class optical and infrared facilities in Chile and the United States to give Chinese astronomers around 50 nights of observing time per year at the telescopes," according to a post on ScienceInsider blog.

As part of the $3 million, 3-year deal, the Chinese astronomers would get 10-12 nights per year of use of the 6.5 meter MMT on Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona, as one of 4 observatories in the Telescope Access Program deal.

The Multi-Mirror Telescope is a joint venture between the Smithsonian Observatory and the Univ. of Arizona.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Transfer of Nevada mining commission to environmental agency

Digging into Nevada Governor Sandoval's budget proposal, reporter Dorothy Kosich found the following language:

"As part of the State of Nevada's reorganization efforts, the Mineral Resources budget account will be merged into the Division of Environmental Protection within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to take advantage of the unique skill sets and synergies that exist between the two agencies".

The Nevada Commission on Mineral Resources s is funded entirely by fees on the mining industry, with a biennial budget for 2009-2011 of $18,297,915. For comparison, the joint budgets for the Arizona Geological Survey, AZ Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources, and State Mine Inspectors office for the past two years was about $5.8 million, or less than one-third what Nevada spent. In 2010, Nevada's mineral production amounted to $7.55 billion compared to Arizona's value of $6.7 billion. [right, NV mines, and oil and geothermal fields. Credit, NV Bur. Mines & Geology]

Pangea supercontinent breakup rifting in Arizona

AZGS senior geologists Jon Spencer and Steve Richard (and 3 co-authors) have a new paper published online in the GSA Bulletin, that describes a Jurassic-aged rift basin that came close to breaking apart Arizona, during the breakup of the Pangea supercontinent [right, credit, C.R. Scotese]. Jon offered the history of their work on this project:

This study began in the early 1980s with Steve Richard’s Master’s thesis (1982), continued with mapping the Little Harquahala Mountains (OFR 85-09), Granite Wash Mountains (OFR 89-04 and AZGS Map 30), Plomosa Mountains (OFR 93-9), and New Water Mountains (94-14). That work did not answer basic questions about the origin of the McCoy Mountains Formation, including its age (Upper Jurassic or Upper Cretaceous?) so we went after the geochemistry of the interbedded basalts (OFR-99-1). When detrital-zircon dating became affordable, Steve and I did a sample collecting trip in 2004. We even got a date on a basalt from samples collected on that trip, which, along with the detrital zircon data, solved the big problems of age and origin of the McCoy Mountains Formation.

These new results led to the paper which looks at the breakup of the Pangea supercontinent, which consisted of all the earth's continent, by late in the Paleozoic Era (at about 250 Ma). "Africa separated from the eastern North America, and northern South America separated from southern North America. Arizona almost broke apart too in the late Jurassic (at about 155 Ma). At that time the McCoy Mountains Formation was first deposited in western Arizona (mostly La Paz County) and the Bisbee Group was deposited in southeastern Arizona. These two formations filled the rift valley that stopped rifting before southernmost Arizona was carried away by plate tectonic drift. The new study identified distinctive geochemical characteristics of rift-related basalts in the McCoy Mountains Formation, reported the first geochronologic date on the basalt (154 Ma), and determined the basic sources of the sands that were shed into the basin.

Ref: Spencer, J.E., Richard, S.M., Gehrels, G.E., Gleason, J.D., and Dickinson, W.R., 2011, Age and tectonic setting of the Mesozoic McCoy Mountains Formation in western Arizona, U.S.A.: Geological Society of American Bulletin, (electronic version published on January 26, 2011, doi:10.1130/B30206.1)

Energy, utility, and environment conference underway in Phoenix

The Energy, Utility, & Environment Conference is "an annual energy, utility and environment conference where over 3,000 delegates including environmental business leaders, energy executives, NGO’s and government policymakers converge to collaborate on the various issues facing energy generation, the future of utility and its impact on the environment.

Over a three day period more than 650 of the world’s leading experts will speak on the diverse topics of clean air policy, legislation and technologies, multi-pollutant control, energy and climate policy, wind, solar, EV-PHEV, carbon markets and CCS, corporate greenhouse gas (GHS) strategies, biofuels, biomass, and biogas, sustainability and reliability, energy efficiency and management, renewable energy and operations and management."

Earth fissure at Powerline flood control dam

The Arizona Republic reports that Maricopa County Flood Control District officials are looking at repairing or replacing a series of flood control dams in the East Valley over the next 15-20 years but earth fissures [left picture in figure at right. Credit, MCFCD] found near the Powerline flood retention structure [right map in figure at right] will necessitate a 'quick fix' construction of a new dam segment in the coming months.

The District's website says the identification of the earth fissure at Powerline FRS led the Arizona Department of Water Resources to classify the dam as “unsafe, non-emergency, elevated risk.” The story says "District officials are hosting a public meeting Tuesday to provide information about the project and gather residents' opinions. The meeting, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., will be at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport administrative office, 5835 S. Sossaman Road, Mesa."

Mars "butterfly crater" formed by impacting moonlet?

Emily at The Planetary Science Blog has created a mosaic of images from the ASU Mars Global Data website, showing an unusually elongated crater on Mars, probably formed by a very low angle oblique impact (ie, less than 10 degrees from horizontal).

Emily makes the case that the impacting body was a tiny Martian moonlet that fragmented on entry in the atmosphere.

[right, "A mosaic of three images captured by the THEMIS instrument on Mars Odyssey in its daytime mode covers a very unusual elongated crater located north of Acheron Fossae on Mars. Source images: V13947003, V30669005, and V12100004. Image scale is 37.7 m/pixel; the crater is 10 kilometers long but only 7.5 wide. Credit: NASA / JPL / ASU / mosaic by Emily Lakdawalla"]

Talks and signings at Tucson gem, mineral, fossil show

The Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase kicked off officially yesterday with tens of thousands of buyers and sellers filling the tent cities that have been erected all around town. But there are also a lot of fascinating lectures and other events going on during the two weeks leading up to the big Tucson Gem & Mineral Show at the Convention Center, Feb. 10-13.

Here are a few of the talks, etc I've noted:

"Collector Day": Wayne Sorensen of the Wayne R. Sorensen Family Trust Collection, in the lobby of Westward Look Resort, 10am-4pm, Saturday, Feb 5

"Demantoid and Tourmaline, Mineral Adventures from Madagascar": by Dr. Federico Pezzota, Curator of Mineralology at the Museum of Natural History, Milan, Italy, Westward Look Resort, Sunday, Feb. 6 (no time listed -

Book signing - "Meteorite Hunting: How to Find Treasure from Space," by Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold, stars of the Science Channel's tv series "Meteorite Men," Sunday, Feb. 6, 11am-1pm, Hotel Tucson City Center Copper Ballroom [right, credit]

"Time Bandits: Fossil Fakes, Frauds, and Copyright Infringements": Peter Lawson, Black Hills Institute and George Winters, AAPS, Thursday, Feb. 3, 7pm, International Wildlife Museum (4800 W. Gates Pass Rd - about 3-4 miles west of downtown). Free admission but tickets must be obtained from the AAPS booth a the Hotel Tucson City Center Copper Ballroom

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Magmatic-hydrothermal origin of Nevada's gold

A new online paper in Nature Geoscience offers an explanation for the origin of the Carlin-type gold deposits in Nevada, the seconds largest concentration of gold after South Africa. The authors propose that
"...upwelling asthenosphere impinged on a strongly modified subcontinental lithospheric mantle, generating magmas that released gold-bearing fluids at depths of 10 to 12km. The rising aqueous fluids with elevated hydrogen sulphide concentrations and a high ratio of gold to copper underwent phase changes and mixed with meteoric water. Within a few kilometres of the surface, the fluids dissolved and sulphidized carbonate wall rocks, leading to deposition of gold-bearing pyrite. We conclude that the large number and size of Carlin-type deposits in Nevada is the result of an unusual convergence of a specific geologic setting, together with a tectonic trigger that led to extremely efficient transport and deposition of gold."

Ref: "Magmatic–hydrothermal origin of Nevada’s Carlin-type gold deposits," John L. Muntean, Jean S. Cline, Adam C. Simon, & Anthony A. Longo, Nature Geoscience, (2011), doi:10.1038/ngeo1064

More potash core holes permitted in Holbrook basin

HNZ Potash, a joint venture of Hunt Oil and NZ Legacy Resources, an Arizona land and ranching company, have permitted ten more coreholes into the Holbrook basin potash deposit (AZOGCC permits 1000 - 1009). They previously permitted 10 wells that have yet to be drilled. It looks like they are waiting to carry out the combined larger drilling program at one time.

The HNZ permits are located to the southeast of Petrified Forest National Park lands, shown in purple at right. The company reports a land position of 74,000 acres.

The core holes are permitted by the AZ Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which is staffed by AZGS. AZGS estimates 682 million to 2.27 billion tonnes of potash in the deposit.

Meanwhile, global demand for potash is surging, which bodes well for the Holbrook deposit, which could constitute as much as 25% of all the potash in the U.S., according to our published report. reports that PotashCorp of Saskatchewan announced that they are effectively sold out of potash for the first quarter of 2011. The company predicts the spot price will ramp up, with contract prices hitting $450 per tonne by year end, along with record company production. Global shipments,which hit 52 million tonnes in 2010, are expected to reach 55-60 million tonnes in 2011.

Two more Arizona bills - eminent domain over federal lands

Two more bills were pointed out to me that could be of interest to the geoscience community:

HB2472, allowing for the taking of federal land under eminent domain.

HB2313, another eminent domain, taking-of-federal-land bill.

A similar effort was passed in Utah last year, although I have not compared that bill with the Arizona ones.

New Arizona legislation

A couple weeks ago, the Arizona House introduced hundreds of bills. Now, the Senate is catching up. Here are a few new bills that caught my attention:

SB1237 Energy Authority of Arizona

SB1288 Free Exercise of religion, professionals, appointees

SB1393 Greenhouse gases - Freedom to Breathe

SB1394 Interstate Compact - Freedom to Breathe

UA Mineral Museum selling duplicate minerals to raise $3M at Tucson gem show

Word around the Tucson gem, mineral, and fossil showcase that got underway officially today, is that the University of Arizona Mineral Museum [right, photo credit UA Mineral Museum. These are not the minerals being sold] is selling some of its specimens. John Veevaert at Trinity Mineral Company, mentioned it briefly at the end of a long post on his blog about the show. I got hold of Bob Downs, UA geosciences professor, who also is the UA Mineral Museum director. Bob provided some corrections to Veevaert's post and more detail. I'm posting Bob's response below so as to not mis-state anything:
The state funding to the mineral museum has stopped. So, the museum along with the museum board decided to raise an endowment through the sale of lower quality samples and duplicate samples from its collection of roughly 20,000 pieces. A request for proposals (RFP) was issued by the university, and Dr Marcus Origlieri won the bid to sell on consignment, with 90% return to the museum. His contract currently runs through the mineral show. The endowment was kick started by a $750K gift from Freeport-McMoRan, with the understanding that the museum would raise $3M total. The endowment is earmarked solely for the support of a collections manager position, currently held by Mark Candee, and operations of the museum. Our intent is to ensure funding for the mineral museum without destroying the collection. We will gladly accept donations.

In addition, we currently have a total of $7M of minerals and funding in the form of estate gifts that are promised to the museum if it gets through this difficult time and shows that it is secure for the long term.

[Thanks to Mike at the Louisville Fossils blog, for pointing out the mineralshow post]

"Geospectrum" e-zine online

The Winter issue of AGI's electronic magazine Geospectrum is online now. I am impressed with the range of news about the geosciences covered in the 47 pages. It's a valuable read. Kudos to AGI.

GeoSpectrum is the free quarterly electronic newsletter of the geosciences. Originially launched as a newsletter for the American Geological Institute in 1995, GeoSpectrum has been reborn as the go-to source of information on AGI's 49 Member Societies. The American Geological Institute coordinates and edits the publication, but it is the result of contributed materials from socieities, geoscience organizations and others in the community.

While this version is published quarterly, AGI also hosts a blog with the latest information on meetings, events, awards, and more. To access the blog please visit

Friday, January 28, 2011

Draft EIS for northern Arizona uranium lands set for Feb. 18 public release

The Arizona BLM office advised us late today that the Draft EIS for uranium exploration and development in northern Arizona has been delivered to BLM and is now at the printer. Barring a major event, they anticipate a public release on February 18th, which will begin the 45 day public comment period. The public comment period will end on April 4. AZGS is a cooperating agency in the EIS process. [right, map showing the withdrawal area of approximately 1 million acres of federal lands from exploration or mineral entry in green]

The public meeting schedule is now:

March 7, 2011 - BLM National Training Center, Phoenix, AZ
March 8, 2011 - High Country Conference Center, Flagstaff, AZ
March 9, 2011 - Fredonia High School Media Center, Fredonia, AZ
March10, 2011 - Homewood Suites, Salt Lake City, UT

All meetings are planned as an Open House scheduled to begin at 6pm, with an introduction and informational presentation from 6:30 to about 6:45, and scheduled to end at 8:30.

[taken in part from the BLM email]

U.S. mineral production values up 9% in 2010; Arizona #2

The value of Arizona mineral production in 2010 was $6.7 billion, putting us in second place behind Nevada with $7.55 billion according to the USGS Mineral Commodities Summary 2011 released today. Arizona produced 10.46% of the nation's mineral value, while Nevada produced 11.70%.

Arizona's mineral revenues came from copper, molybdenum concentrates, sand and gravel
(construction), cement (portland), stone (crushed).

Nevada's lead over Arizona is attributable to the soaring price of gold.

The MCS reports that copper and copper alloy products were used in building construction, 49%; electric and electronic products, 20%; transportation equipment, 12%; consumer and general products, 10%; and industrial machinery and equipment, 9%.

The news release about the MCS offers a summary of U.S. mineral production:

The value of mineral production in the U.S. increased 9 percent in 2010 from that of 2009, suggesting that the nonfuel minerals industries, particularly metals, were beginning to recover from the economic recession that began in December 2007 and lasted well into 2009.

The value of raw, nonfuel minerals mined in the U.S. was $64 billion in 2010, up from $59 billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s annual release of mineral production statistics and summary of events and trends affecting domestic and global nonfuel minerals.

"During the past year, we began to see increases in domestic mineral production, after significant declines in 2009," said USGS Mineral Resources Program Coordinator Kathleen Johnson. "This report allows for timely research and analysis of our nation’s minerals sector."

The metals sector was marked by higher prices across the board and a substantial increase in tonnage of iron ore mined. The metals industries supported the overall gains in the minerals sector, offsetting a 6 percent decline in the value of non-metals in 2010.

The non-metallic minerals sector continued to decline in 2010, but at a slower rate than in 2009. More non-metallic mineral commodities showed increases in mine production and value than those that decreased, but the production and consumption of dominant materials, particularly those used in construction, declined.

U.S. dependence on foreign sources for minerals increased, continuing a trend that has been evident for more than 30 years. The U.S. relied on foreign sources to supply more than 50 percent of domestic consumption of 43 mineral commodities in 2010. The U.S. was 100 percent reliant on imports for 18 mineral commodities in 2010.

Minerals are a fundamental component to the U.S. economy. Final products, such as cars and houses, produced by major U.S. industries using mineral materials made up about 13 percent (more than $2.1 trillion) of the 2010 gross domestic product. Domestic raw materials, along with domestically recycled materials, were used to process mineral materials worth $578 billion, such as aluminum, brick, copper, fertilizers, and steel. These products were, in turn, used to produce cars, houses, and other products.

The report, Mineral Commodity Summaries 2011, is an annual report that includes statistics on about 90 mineral commodities and addresses events, trends, and issues in the domestic and international minerals industries. The report is used by public and private sector analysts regarding planning and decision making for government and business.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Havasupai Tribe and FEMA sign disaster agreement today

FEMA officials are flying into Supai Village this morning to sign a formal agreement to implement federal disaster assistance to the Sovereign Tribal Nation of the Havasupai Tribe (Havasupai). This will release funds to assist the Havasupai with their recovery from flooding that occurred last October [right, photo by Brian Gootee, AZGS].

This is the first time a Native American tribe has received emergency disaster funds on their own, rather than as a partner to a state or county government. Tribal Council Chair Bernadine Jones said, “We are proud to be a grantee and to be able to receive FEMA funds directly to the Tribe. This action strengthens the sovereignty of the Tribe.”

AZGS geologist Brian Gootee has been working with the Tribe to help with the recovery, including assisting with preparation during the past few weeks of a comprehensive mitigation plan that was completed just yesterday in cooperation with FEMA and the AZ Div. of Emergency Management. That was key to getting the disaster funds released.

The famed Havasu Canyon has been closed to visitors since the flood but the emergency funds will be crucial in restoring tourist facilities that the are economic lifeblood of the Tribe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chandler student among Intel Science Talent finalists

A Chandler high school senior, Scott Paul Boisvert from Basha High School, is one of 40 finalists nationwide in the Intel Science Talent Search. The finalists were selected from 300 Semifinalists and 1,744 total applicants and "will come to Washington, D.C. in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for the top award of $100,000." The 40 finalists come from 15 states.
The Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) is the nation’s most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors. Since 1942, first in partnership with Westinghouse and beginning in 1998 with Intel, SSP [Science for Society & the Public] has provided a national stage for the country's best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists.
Boisevert's research project is titled, Influences of Environmental Chemistry on Growth and Chemotaxis of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Aquatic Habitats: Implications for Amphibian Decline.

It's too bad that a society that is glued to the tv to watch our kids on "American Idol," will largely ignore this collection of our best and brightest.

Valuing the water used to generate electricity

Electric generation is one of the largest users of water yet many utilities do not even report what they use nor calculate the "opportunity cost" of water over the life of the plant, according to a new report from Western Resource Advocates, Every Drop Counts: Valuing the Water Used to Generate Electricity. The report looks at water use in six western states, including Arizona.

One way they calculate water values is to use municipal tap fees [right, based on tap fees, the price of water is highest along the Colorado Front Range and Prescott, AZ]

The report came to 3 main conclusions:
  • At a minimum, utilities across the region should report water consumption for existing facilities, along with projected water consumption for different proposed portfolios, as part of their integrated resource plans.
  • In considering new water-intensive power plants, utilities and regulators should assess the value of water today, the potential value of water in the future, and the opportunity cost of using water for power generation over the lifetime of the power plant.
  • Regulators and electric utilities should consider the benefits of maintaining flexibility, and the role of water-efficient forms of generation and energy efficiency as a hedge against short- or long-term drought.

Arizona #15 in S&T, up two places

Arizona ranks 15th overall in a national comparison of states in science and technology, up two places from the last ranking in 2008. The Milken Institute report, 2010 State Technology and Science Index: Enduring Lessons for the Intangible Economy "looks at 79 unique indicators that are categorized into five major components: Research and Development Inputs, Risk Capital and Entrepreneurial Infrastructure, Human Capital Investment, Technology and Science Work Force, and Technology Concentration and Dynamism."

Reporter Patrick O'Grady, writing at the Phoenix Business Blog says "Dragging the overall ranking down, however, is what Arizona has done in terms of educating workers that can supply technology jobs. The state ranked 32nd on the human capital investment scale."

It's interesting to see that 3 of the top 5 states border Arizona.

The top ten (with previous Index rankings in 2008):
1.Massachusetts (1)
2.Maryland (2)
3.Colorado (3)
4.California (4)
5.Utah (8)
6.Washington (5)
7.New Hampshire (9)
8.Virginia (6)
9.Connecticut (7)
10.Delaware (14)

Rep. Quayle to chair House Technology & Innovation Subcommittee

Freshman Arizona congressman Ben Quayle is newly appointed chair of the technology and innovation subcommittee of the House Science Committee. Gabrielle Giffords is also a member of the subcommittee.

The subcommittee jurisdiction includes earthquake programs (except for NSF) and scientific issues related to environmental policy, including climate change.

Billion dollar loan guarantee for world's largest solar plant near Yuma

The U.S. Dept. of Energy has announced "the offer of a conditional commitment to Agua Caliente Solar, LLC for a loan guarantee of up to $967 million. The loan guarantee will support the construction of a 290-megawatt photovoltaic solar generating facility located in Yuma County, Arizona that will use thin film solar panels from [Tempe-based] First Solar, Inc. The project sponsor, NRG Solar, estimates the project will be the largest photovoltaic generation facility in the world when it is completed."

First Solar says "when fully operational, the 290MW Agua Caliente Solar Project will generate enough clean solar energy to serve the needs of about 100,000 average homes per year, displacing approximately 220,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year—the equivalent of taking about 40,000 cars off the road. Construction on the Agua Caliente Solar Project is planned to begin in late 2010. Pacific Gas & Electric Company has contracted to purchase the project's output for 25 years. "

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Making Arizona the "Grand Canyon State"

Newly introduced House Bill 2549 will make it official: "the Grand Canyon state" is the official state nickname. [photo credit, National Park Service]

Summarizing the mines department transfer

I sent the following letter out today to many of our stakeholders:

January 25, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

Last Friday, the Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources shut down operations when they ran out of money. However, at the same time, the DMMR governing board transferred custody of the department’s files and physical resources to the Arizona Geological Survey for one year, or until the State Legislature acts on the Governor’s proposal to consolidate the two agencies or takes other action.

AZGS committed to keeping the doors open to the ADMMR offices in Phoenix and public access to their extensive records, maps, and reports, at least through the end of the state fiscal year, June 30, pending the Legislature’s decision. DMMR Director Dr. Madan Singh officially retired on January 21, but graciously agreed to come back as needed to help in the transition and to finalize any outstanding reports. All the other DMMR staff accepted offers of employment with the AZGS at their current status and were transferred without interruption.

AZGS did not assume the statutory duties of DMMR nor is this a merger of the agencies. DMMR continues to exist in statute and the Governing Board is responsible for the department assets and remaining funds. AZGS will report on our custodianship on a regular basis to the Board. The statutory duties of the mines department and the geological survey are complementary and the Survey's mission is written broadly enough that we all feel we can continue to meet the needs of the citizens, agencies, and businesses of Arizona with regard to the mines department’s assets, both physical and intellectual.

We are currently reviewing the external contracts and grants to DMMR to ensure we can complete the commitments made in them at which time we will request approval from the funding sources for us to manage them under the original terms.

DMMR holds the state’s most extensive collection of historical and technical mine and mineral resource files, including many from now-defunct companies or personal libraries. They are irreplaceable.

Yes, these files are invaluable to the small-mine operator as newspaper reports have emphasized, but they are also heavily used by other government agencies, by the bigger companies that have not worked in Arizona, and a variety of land owners, among others.

DMMR works with the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Attorney General to provide them with solid engineering and economic evaluations on the issuance and sale of mining securities. Selling phony mining stock has been a favorite of scammers and con artists for years.

DMMR’s customers are also other state and federal agencies, who need reliable information about mining projects across the state to understand the economic, planning, and environmental impacts that need to be dealt with. ADMMR, like AZGS, participates as a cooperating agency in numerous federal EIS processes, bringing their mining engineering expertise to bear.

DMMR’s state funds would have run out at the end of January. With the state’s dire fiscal situation and severe budget cuts being imposed everywhere, an emergency budget increase for them was just not realistic. Instead, Gov. Brewer recognized that consolidating our two small agencies with complementary missions makes sense. We can preserve their critical records.

Over the past three years, and in the midst of a nationwide recession, AZGS has grown at unprecedented rates due to our success in bringing in external funds to subsidize and underwrite our work on state issues that the state can no longer fully fund. We have a more stable funding base, greater infrastructure, and a support staff that we can bring to the consolidated agencies. The resulting economies of scale promises better service to you and our other customers and stakeholders at a lower cost.

This consolidation has all occurred in just three days, so the dust won’t be settling for a while, but I am confident that we will come out with an agency that can better meet the needs of all our constituents, whether it’s a weekend miner or the world’s largest producers, as well as the range of federal land management agencies and environmental organizations.

I expect you have questions or concerns about what this means. We’ll try to answer them the best we can but frankly, we’re breaking new ground here and we are still discovering, in some cases, just what the questions are. There are a lot of details that we continue to work out but the transfer overall was smooth and our combined operations are working as usual.

I want to personally thank Madan Singh, the DMMR Board members, and the former DMMR staff for their selfless cooperation during this wrenching time for them. Gov. Jan Brewer has put her senior staff to work on this, along with the heads of the finance, administration, and personnel agencies, to make sure the transfer was completed almost overnight to preserve DMMR’s records and maintain continued access to them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Geothermal air conditioning talk set for Friday

AZGS is presenting two talks on new concepts in geothermal energy this Friday, Jan. 28 at our office in Tucson. We invite you to attend the talks on geothermal air conditioning and thermal profiles in wells.

Dr. Frank Horowitz, from the Geothermal Centre of Excellence at the University of Western Australia in Perth, is stopping by AZGS on his way to the Stanford Geothermal Conference, and offered to give talks on aspects of his current work.

At 10 am, Frank will talk on "Detailed thermal profiling of Perth Basin wells: a joint inversion for thermal conductivities and heat fluxes in active sedimentary aquifers"

At 2 pm he will present a more formal talk on "Geothermal air conditioning opportunities in hot sedimentary aquifers"

Both talks will be webcast nationally to participants in our DOE-funded State Geothermal Data project.

Asarco seems to confirm report of plans to expand Ray, Mission copper mines

A United Steelworkers official says Asarco told the union last week at a meeting in Tucson that the company plans on expanding the Ray [right, credit USGS] and Mission copper mines, according a report by Platts, that has been picked up widely by the mining and financial news media. There are no responses from Asarco so far, except the company has posted the Platts release on their website, under the headline, "Asarco tells USW of plans to expand two copper mines in Arizona."

That sounds like confirmation to me.

Reaction to mines dept consolidation

There have been a few news reports about the consolidation of the Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources into the Arizona Geological Survey last week, after ADMMR shut down because of lack of funds. I've posted comments or talked with the reporters at those publications. There's been some thoughtful comments back and forth about the developments.

UPDATE--AZ Gov. Brewer closes state department servicing world-class copper region

Arizona Cuts Mining Agency: A View of Future Tea Parties

Mining agency reaches deal to remain open

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Report on newly discovered Little Chino fault

AZGS has released a map and report on the newly discovered “Little Chino fault” that borders the northeast margin of Chino Valley, north of Prescott.

AZGS geologists are now studying the geochronology along the Little Chino fault and continue mapping in the Prescott-Paulden area as part of our work on the USGS funded Statemap cooperative program.

The map and report are available in PDF format at the Arizona Geological Survey Document Repository:

Ref: B.F. Gootee, C.A. Ferguson, Spencer, J.E. and J.P. Cook, 2011, Geologic Map of the Chino Valley North 7½' Quadrangle, Yavapai County, Arizona. Map scale 1:24,000

Magnitude 3.5 quake strikes west of Sedona

A magnitude 3.5 earthquake struck at 5:16 am local time this morning, about 15 miles west of Sedona, Arizona. There are only a couple reports of it being felt with weak to light groundshaking, no reports of damage.

update, 1-27-11: the USGS has modified the quake size to 3.6 after reviewing the AZGS seismograph readings.

Friday, January 21, 2011

We have a deal - AZGS will keep mine files open to public

The Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources (ADMMR) and the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) finalized an agreement late this afternoon that turns over custody to AZGS of the ADMMR's extensive files and reports on mines and mineral resources. The ADMMR offices in Phoenix will open as usual on Monday morning, but under management of AZGS. We committed to keeping the ADMMR files open to the public through the end of the state fiscal year (June 30) or until the Legislature takes action on Gov. Brewer's proposal to consolidate ADMMR into AZGS.

Five of the six ADMMR staff accepted offers to transfer to AZGS and will continue to work from their offices in Phoenix. ADMMR Director Dr. Madan Singh is retiring today. The entire staff had received notices of layoffs last Friday effective today, when ADMMR was projected to run out of money.

ADMMR had been hoping for an emergency supplemental budget increase to continue operating through June but the states dire financial situation trumped that. When the Governor's budget was finalized last week, it became clear that ADMMR would not get the extra funds to stay open and would have a similar shortfall next fiscal year.

The proposed consolidation of our two small agencies should also provide some efficiencies of scale, allowing us to provide better service to our customers and stakeholders at a lower cost.

A lot of folks have been working almost around the clock the past few days to put together this agreement. I'll talk more later about how this complex deal was put together and what it means for Arizona.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mines & Mineral Resources dept. out of money; shutting down Friday

The Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources (ADMMR) is running out of state operating funds and is being shut down on Friday.

The Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in Phoenix was transferred from ADMMR to the Arizona Historical Society last year to become the Arizona Centennial Museum. This left ADMMR with 3 state-funded and a couple of grant-funded positions. They moved out of the museum building into smaller space in nearby empty state offices. The department came to realize that their budget would not last through the year but it's now clear that the state's overall budget situation would not allow for supplemental state funding to carry them through until the new fiscal year in July.

Gov. Brewer, in her budget released last Friday, proposed that ADMMR be consolidated with the Arizona Geological Survey. If that proposal is approved by the Legislature, it would probably not take effect until July 1.

The immediate issue is to see what can be done between the closure at the end of the week and the pending consolidation.

Hundreds of bills filed today in Arizona Legislature

House members filed a few hundred bills in the Arizona Legislature today, while the Senate kept theirs to a couple dozen. After a quick scan, here are a handful that caught my attention:

HB2259 - Cut the salaries of state agency directors by 10% (hey, that's me!)
HB2265 - AZ Mining & Mineral Museum restoration
HB2295 - Renewable energy net metering
HB2317 - State Land Dept appropriation (but the amount is left blank)
HB2393 - Drought emergency groundwater transfers
HB2470 - LPG emergencies, liability
HB2527 - Well ownership, sale; registration

You can read the full bill, status, sponsors, etc, at

Monday, January 17, 2011

Regulatory oversight of uranium mine criticized

The Arizona (Flagstaff) Daily Sun ran a blistering story on the state's oversight of Denison Mines Arizona #1 uranium mine [right, head frame for Arizona #1. Credit, Denison Mines] saying it "has been largely left to regulate itself." The story appears to have been compiled from information in ADEQ files.

However, no one from Denison or the AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality is quoted in the story. We need to hear their responses, but reporter Cyndy Cole has raised concerns that have to be addressed.

Mohave County solar update

There are proposals to develop 6 commercial solar power projects in Mohave County, ranging from 1 to 1,200 megawatts each, and totaling over 1830 MW. But none has broken ground and only one has approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The Kingman Daily Miner looks at the status of each project. [right, overlay of proposed Hualapai Valley Solar project, the first one approved by Mohave County]

Arizona GDP same as Thailands

Arizona's economy is about the same size as that of Thailand.

The Economist magazine has published an updated map comparing the gross domestic product (GDP) of each U.S. state to that of other countries. Arizona's GDP in 2009 was $256.36 billion vs that of Thailand at $263.98. The interactive map lets you check out each state.