Sunday, May 08, 2011

Proposal for federal-state assessment of helium, potash resources

Draft legislation from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on critical minerals would call for comprehensive assessments on critical minerals including rare earths, helium, and potash [right, USGS]. Arizona has rich deposits of the latter two and exploration efforts are underway in a few locations for rare earths.

The deadline for comment was Friday for comments on the "draft of legislation to revitalize the nation’s critical materials supply chain.

Jeff Doebrich, acting head of the USGS Mineral Resources Program forwarded a copy of the review copy. Two sections stood out that call for the U.S. Interior Dept. (home of the USGS) to work with state geologists on helium and potash. A number of companies are drilling in Arizona's Holbrook basin to explore a potash deposit that could hold 1/4 of the U.S. resource base. In the St. John's area, Ridgeway Arizona Petroleum Co. has been developing a helium-CO2 field in preparation for production.

The Murkowski legislation proposes having DOI:

(1) in coordination with appropriate heads of State geological surveys, complete a comprehensive national helium gas assessment that identifies and quantifies the quantity of helium in each reservoir, including assessments of the constituent gases found in each helium resource, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and natural gas; and

in coordination with appropriate heads of State geological surveys, shall complete a comprehensive national potash assessment that—

(1) identifies and quantifies known potash deposits; and

(2) provides a quantitative assessment of the location and size of undiscovered potash deposits throughout the United States using all available public and private information and data sets.

(b) Drilling Program.—As part of the assessment under this section, the Secretary may carry out a drilling program to supplement the geological data applicable to determining the existence of potash.

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