Thursday, September 22, 2011

NPR's Science Friday broadcast from Flagstaff, Sept 23

NPR's popular "Science Friday" show will broadcast from Flagstaff, this Friday, Sept. 23. Host Ira Flatow will interview Arizona scientists on topics including Wildfires in the Southwest, Flagstaff Festival of Science, Formation of the Grand Canyon, and Astronomy Conducted from Lowell Observatory. Topics and guests listed below, or visit for more information.

Managing Forests To Manage Wildfires

William Wallace Covington
Regents' Professor of Forest Ecology
Executive Director, The Ecological Restoration Institute
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, Arizona

Mary Lata
Fire Ecologist
U.S. Forest Service / USDA
Flagstaff, Arizona

Paul Summerfelt
Firefighter, Type 1 Team Incident Commander
Wildland Fire Management Officer
City of Flagstaff
Flagstaff, Arizona

Solving The Riddle Of The Grand Canyon’s Formation

Karl Karlstrom
Professor, Structural Geology and Tectonics
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ivo Lucchitta
Emeritus Scientist, USGS
Research Associate, Museum of Northern Arizona
Flagstaff, Arizona

Richard Young
Professor, Geological Sciences
State University of New York, Geneseo
Geneseo, New York

Flagstaff Throws A Party For Science

Bryan Bates
Professor, Environmental Studies
Coconino Community College
Flagstaff, Arizona

John Grunsfeld
Physicist, Former Astronaut
Deputy Director, Space Telescope Science Institute
Baltimore, Maryland
Still Cataloging The Skies, Long After ‘Planet X’

Jeffrey Hall
Director, Lowell Observatory
Flagstaff, Arizona

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More quakes this week near Lake Mead

We had a magnitude 2.1 quake at Lake Mead this morning around 7:22 am local time (only half an hour ago as I write this. Monday saw two other similar small events.

I spoke to an engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation last week who said there is a semi-regular schedule of larger releases of water along the river to meet user needs. I've speculated that there seems to be a pattern of small quakes early in the week under and around Lake Mead.

[top right, Wed's quake; bottom, Monday's quakes. Credit, USGS]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Limited blogging while on vacation

If you noticed that I have not been blogging much in recent days, it's because I'm at our family cabin outside Yellowstone until the end of the month. We do have a phone but the dial-up modem transfer rate is running about 2 kbps, which means it takes forever to send or receive anything online. [right,view from the front porch]

I have at least a dozen topics ready to post, but may wait until we head to town for supplies and then upload them all at an internet cafe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Atmospheric rivers

Southern Arizona got more than half its rain last winter from one atmospheric river event. Wikipedia describes an atmospheric river as a narrow corridor or filament of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere. There are apparently only 3-5 active in the atmosphere at any given time, but they move an estimated 90% of the north-south water vapor transport. [right, atmospheric river hitting the US West Coast. Credit, National Weather Service]

I say this because Marty Ralph from NOAA is visiting the University of Arizona this week to give a seminar on the topic. Jonathan Overpeck of the UA Institute for the Environment says Marty is one of the lead wizards behind the discovery of atmospheric rivers as a relatively common phenomena that are responsible for a surprising number of west coast, and western floods, plus more around the globe. And he’s determined with colleagues that they are predictable. A major discovery in the field of weather, climate and natural hazards.

Chief, Water Cycle Branch,
NOAA/ESRL/Physical Science Division
Boulder, CO
"Atmospheric Rivers"
Thursday, September 15, 4:00–5:00 PM, ILC Building, Room 150, Univ. of Arizona
See for talk schedule

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moderate quake in Colorado River delta

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake hit northern Baja this afternoon at 1:18 PM local time, about 36 miles southwest of San Luis, Arizona. As I write this, there were no reports of it being felt in Arizona.

USGS puts 90,000 historical topos online for downloading

The USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP) is converting historical printed topographic quadrangles to an electronic format (GeoPDF). This scanning and processing effort serves the dual purpose of creating a master catalog and digital archive copies of the irreplaceable collection of topographic maps in the USGS Reston Map Library as well as making the maps available for viewing and download from the USGS Store. The loading of the more than 200,000 historical maps to the USGS Store has begun, and there are currently 90,000 GeoPDF maps available to download and view.

No Arizona maps have been added to the archive yet. [right, 1961 Baynesville, KS, 1:24,000 quad]

[taken in part from the USGS news release]

Monday, September 12, 2011

Potash company revises disclosures after challenges

The British Columbia Securities Commission challenged Vancouver-based Passport Potash over statements they made about their potash project in Arizona's Holbrook basin. In response, Passport issued a press release describing changes they subsequently made in their disclosures to address the issues.

Mining Weekly reports that the regulatory agency "had a problem with the way the company presented the findings of a 2008 Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) report [right] on the Holbrook basin, saying it came across as an estimate of potential as a resource." They further said:

The BCSC also raised issues with various instances where the company claimed to have 2.5-billion tons of potash, based on the AZGS report on the Holbrook basin, instead of using the 0.7-billion to 2.5-billion range the report cited. Also, the report was for the entire basin, while Passport only owns around one-quarter of the land area, with a deal currently under way to lift this to 32%.

Passport went on to say, the BCSC was concerned that the company was omitting some of the risks associated with the Holbrook project, particularly related to the fact that the property is located close to the protected Petrified Forest National Park.

Among other actions, Passport Potash removed a slide from a presentation and provided clarification on how they are using AZGS Open file Report 08-07:

The Company would like to clarify that the percentage of the land held by the Company refers only to the surface area of the land held within the basin. The isopach map, which the AGS [AZGS] included in their report, shows that the thickness of the potash beds within the basin on which the Company's properties lie can vary from 10 to 30 feet.
-- The AGS report provides two estimates for the total volume of the potash
contained within the Holbrook basin. The estimates were calculated using
different volume estimation methods. The lower of the estimates, which
the author of the report notes is the preferred estimate, shows that the
resource volume ranging from 682 million to 2.27 billion metric tons at
average grades ranging from 6% to 20%, while the higher of the estimates
shows the resource volume ranging between 775 million to 2.85 billion
metric tons at average grades ranging from 6% to 20%.
-- The potential quantity and grade of the potash from the AGS report is
conceptual in nature. There has been insufficient exploration to define
a mineral resource and it is uncertain if further exploration will
result in the target being delineated as a mineral resource.
-- The potential quantity and grade of the potential potash deposit
delineated by the AGS report has been determined solely from historical
exploration records.

The company also released results from five new core holes from their exploration drilling program:

Each hole intersected potash at depths ranging from 1123.5 to 1590 feet deep. The best interval averaged 24.0% KCl over 4.5 feet in which is included a 0.5 foot section containing 41.1% KCl.

All of the Company's available assayed holes and their respective locations may be viewed on the map available at the following link:

Our weekly Lake Mead earthquake

It really is starting to seem like we get a small magnitude earthquake around Lake Mead along the Arizona - Nevada border almost weekly. I need to look at the records over the past 6 months to see if there is a pattern here.

Anyway, there was a magnitude 2.2 event just over the line in Nevada at 11:08 AM today.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Superfund clean-up at Dewey-Humboldt

EPA will start conducting "interim Superfund cleanup activities at some of the worst areas in Dewey-Humboldt for seven weeks" beginning tomorrow, according to the Prescott Daily Courier. [right, Humboldt smokestack. Credit,]

"The Superfund contaminants at Dewey-Humboldt emanate from the defunct 182-acre Humboldt Smelter and nearby defunct 153-acre Iron King Mine. The EPA declared them a Superfund site in 2008."

Residents at a Wednesday public hearing raised concerns about the human health impacts of the sites and "also expressed concern about the lack of fencing on the mine and smelter sites, which are privately owned by several people and corporations."

The Courier story provides a brief history of the mining history and details on EPA's fall work plans.

Chile mine rescue leader to speak at Mine Inspector's conference

Richard Soppe of Center Rock Industries, who was responsible for the internationally renowned Chilean mine rescue, will be the featured speaker at the Arizona Mine Inspector’s Annual Fall Mining Conference Kick-Off Dinner, October 12th at the Phoenix Airport Marriott located at 44th Street and the 202 Freeway, beginning at 5:00 PM.

State Mining Inspector Joe Hart says "The third annual Fall Mine Conference is an opportunity for all mining sectors to come together in one place for the common goal of safety."
On August 5, 2010, thirty-three Chilean miners were rescued 68 days after a cave-in nearly killed them. After weeks of fear, desperation and finally hope, the miners were pulled out one by one in a capsule that carried them through a narrow tube of solid rock — An amazing and unprecedented 23-hour marathon of rescues. The men emerged to tears and embraces from relatives, and cheers, as tens of millions of people watched on television around the world to see a joyful end to the longest known ordeal of men trapped underground.

The August 5 collapse brought the 125-year-old San Jose mine's checkered safety record into focus and put Chile's top industry under close scrutiny. Many believe the collapse occurred because the mine was overworked and lacked essential safety features. Our mission in the great state of Arizona is to strive toward our collective goal of zero accidents for active and abandoned mines and to provide a commitment to train and bring our miners home safely to their families each night. Our staff works so that we will never have to experience such a tragedy or any other in the great State of Arizona.
Joe invites everyone to join him and meet these amazing rescuers and hear their compelling story.

Please fax Laurie Swartzbaugh at 602-542-5335 or via to RSVP. Please mail your check for $80.00 no later than October 5, 2011 to the State Mine Inspector, 1700 W Washington, Suite 403, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

Florence copper opponents focus on water issues

Real estate developers whose properties surround the proposed underground in situ Florence Copper Project, formed the opposition group Protect Our Water Our Future, which made a presentation to the City of Florence, arguing the project will threaten groundwater in the area. [right, groundwater cross section through copper deposit. Credit Curis Resources, via POWOF presentation]. Curis disputes many of the claims.

Upcoming public hearings on Curis Resources proposal to change their project area zoning back to commercial/industrial to allow the in situ copper recovery project to go forward:

1st Hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission -September 15, 2011. (Anthem at Merrill Ranch Sun City Community Center –3925 North Sun City Boulevard at 5:30 PM)

2nd Hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission–October 6, 2011. (Town Hall Council Chambers –775 North Main Street at 5:30 PM.)

Town Council hearing–November 7, 2011 (Town Hall Council Chambers –775 North Main Street at 6:00 PM.)

Park Service land acquisition plans for Petrified Forest

The following is taken from the National Park Service's FY12 budget plan. The first part of the land acquisition of the Paulsell Ranch was just announced. It is not explicitly stated what property is included in the second phase of 21,669 acres. Another NPS budget document refers to the Twin Buttes Ranch on the west side of the park. That 64,000 acre property is under option to Passport Potash. [right, private and state trust lands inside the park boundaries are shown in pale yellow. Credit, NPS]

Fiscal Year 2012 National Park Service Federal Land Acquisition Program

Park Area: Petrified Forest National Park Priority: 4
Location: Northeastern Arizona
State/County/Congressional District: State of Arizona/Apache and Navajo Counties/Congressional District No. 1

Land Acquisition Limitation Amount Remaining: There is no limitation.

Date Acres Total Amount ($000)
FY 2012 Request 26,496 $5,475
Future Funding Needed 21,669 $6,350

Description: The Act of December 3, 2004 (Public Law 108-430), revised the boundary of the park to include an additional 125,000 acres of land, of which approximately 76,473 acres are privately owned. The act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire such privately owned land from a willing seller, by donation, purchase with donated or appropriated funds, or exchange. Since enactment, no funds have been appropriated for land acquisition in the expansion area. The Service’s budget request for 2011 includes $7,540,000 for the acquisition of a portion of the lands added to the park in 2004.

Natural/Cultural Resources Associated with Proposal: Petrified Forest National Park contains globally significant fossil from the Late Triassic Period. The park is a virtual laboratory offering opportunities for paleontological research and visitor understanding that are unparalleled. The conservation and protection of the fossil resources, especially petrified wood (critical park resource) is the reason for the original establishment of the park, while the protection of vast cultural resources (the secondary unit resource) is a major focus and the intent of later expansion legislation.

Threat: Direct threats to natural and cultural resources in the proposed expansion area include theft and vandalism of fragile and non-renewable archaeological and paleontological sites and resources. Although these occurrences are all within the parks congressionally approved administrative boundary, the park currently has no jurisdiction over these lands and therefore non-renewable paleontological and archaeological resources are unattended and subject to ongoing theft and vandalism.

Need: The requested funds will be used to acquire six tracts totaling 26,496.16 acres and comprising the Paulsell Ranch that is presently owned by the Hatch Family Limited Partnership. The ranch was added to the park in 2004 by P.L. 108-430 and is rich in archaeological and paleontological resources. The ranch contains several areas (e.g., Billings Gap) with globally significant paleontological resources that compliment those in the park and numerous historic cultural sites including rock art panels, as well as structures from the Puebloan period in the Southwest. This property also includes nine miles of the Puerco River Riparian area that provides crucial habitat for many of the species found in this area from insects and rodents to raptors and migrating elk. Federal acquisition of this property would result in greater, proactive resource protection and preservation of this significant landscape. Protective measures include vehicle, horse, and foot patrols by Law Enforcement Rangers, remote monitoring through the use of surveillance equipment, as well as site inventory and monitoring by resource management staff.

Estimated O&M Costs/Savings: An estimated $315,000 would be needed to manage and maintain this land and provide, via an agreement with the State, management of State lands currently checker boarded with NPS land.

This acquisition, in partnership with The Conservation Fund, will serve to protect riparian habitat and watershed resources and to preserve the extensive and undeveloped natural landscape.

[Thanks to Jarrod at for passing along the link to this report.]

Details emerging on Petrified Forest acquisition of Hatch/Pursell ranch lands

The purchase of the Hatch/Paulsell ranch lands for addition to Petrified Forest National Park was the #4 priority on the National Park Service's Federal Land Acquisition FY2012 Priority List.

The list describes the acquisition as comprising 26,496.16 acres spread across 6 tracts. The estimated cost is shown as $5,475,000, although news reports say NPS paid about $8 million for the surface rights only.

Jarrod, who is following the Holbrook basin potash play on his Nested Quotes website, has posted the first map showing the possible extent of the Paulsell Ranch lands involved in the sale. In an email Jarrod said he has a map from one of other ranches in the area that showed an area marked as the Paulsell Ranch which works out to about 26,000 acres. He added that as a layer on his online interactive map viewer. Those lands are shown in darker yellow on the top map at right.

Interestingly, most of the lands are the same as leases held by Denver-based Prospect Global Resources (owner of American West Potash) [bottom right in purple].

A news article published last week before the sale announcement, quoted park superintendent Brad Traver saying they had met with American West Potash president Pat Avery about minimizing mine operation impacts on the park, including helping determine the location of the mines surface facilities. The Arizona Journal quotes Traver saying, “He (Avery) invited us to participate in the design process for the mine’s facilities on the surface, which was pretty extraordinary, I thought."

A 1999 article in High Country News describes the purchase of the 60,000 acre Paulsell Ranch by Marvin Hatch and partner Terrance "Shorty" Reidhead for $3.3 million and their plans to create the "International Petrified Forest" as a private tourist attraction.

The Dept. of Interior FY2011 budget proposal asked for $7.5 million to buy both the Twin Buttes and Paulsell ranches to add to the Park. Passport Potash has a lease-purchase option for the Twin Buttes ranch for a reported $20 million.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lunar north pole mosaic from ASU

NASA stitched together 983 wide-angle photos from ASU's Lunar Orbiter Reconnaissance Camera (LROC) to create the crispest ever mosaic of the moon's north pole.

[right, photo credit NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]

Friday, September 09, 2011

No mineral rights with Petrified Forest land deal

The Holbrook Arizona Journal reports that the National Park Service bought the surface rights but not the mineral rights for over 26,000 acres of the privately owned Hatch Ranch lands to add to Petrified Forest National Park. The park and the ranch lands are underlain by one of the largest potash deposits in the nation, which is being actively explored for potential development. [right, AZGS's thickness map of potash deposit in Holbrook basin. Petrified Forest NP boundaries in blue (park lands) and green (expanded boundary surrounding private and state lands)]

According to the paper,

[Park Superintendent] Brad Traver said the park has purchased the surface rights to the Hatch Ranch only; the park does not own the mineral rights to the land, which leaves the door open for the Hatch Family Limited Partnership to enter into mineralization agreements with any of the potash operators currently exploring the area for future mining.

Principals of the Hatch Ranch could not be reached to learn of their plans for the property’s mineral deposits.

No maps of the acquired lands have been released yet but the paper described them as:

The Hatch Ranch is located south of Interstate 40 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The ranch begins east of Puerco Pueblo and Blue Mesa, excluding section numbers 11, 7, 1, 31 and 29, to the east and north of Puerco Pueblo; and sections 19, 31 and 33, east of Blue Mesa. A few sections of the ranch are located south of the railroad to the west of Newspaper Rock, including sections 7, 8, 19, 30, and a portion of 31.

Congress expanded the park boundaries in 2004 but never provided funds to acquire the private or state trust lands within the new boundaries. Since then, the value of the potash under the lands has soared, which in turn has tripled or quadrupled land prices in the area. About a quarter of the potash underlies national park lands and another quarter is under the private and trust lands within the expanded park boundaries. We estimate the value of the potentially recoverable potash at current prices as hundreds of billions of dollars.

Mudslide on Highway 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona

ADOT reports a mudslide on state highway 89A South between Flagstaff and Sedona forced them to escort traffic between mile markers 378 and 380 this afternoon, while crews cleared the road.

Heavy rain hit the area yesterday.

Congressional Western Caucus calls for natural resources development

Republican members of the Congressional Western Caucus issued a report yesterday endorsing legislation that would promote mining and energy development among other resources, as job creation mechanisms. Among the bills they support is H.R. 1904-the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011, "which would pave the way for the $4 billion Resolution Copper Mine."

They also call for passage of S. 1470/H.R. 2171 - Exploring for Geothermal Energy on Federal Lands Act, and H.R. 2172 - Utilizing America's Federal Lands for Wind Energy Act: "These bills would waive the application of NEPA to various proposed geothermal projects on federal lands, making it easier to develop this domestic energy resource."

The report also blames the Obama administration for increasing numbers of power outages such as the one that hit southern California and Arizona yesterday.

It appears that all the GOP members of the Arizona delegation endorsed the report.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

AZGS publishes 10 historical reports on uranium-vanadium exploration

AZGS has published 10 reports prepared by well-known economic geologist Bill Chenoweth, that examine historical uranium-vanadium exploration on Navajo Tribal Lands of northeast Arizona. All 10 are available at the AZGS document repository for viewing or free downloading. The Chenoweth suite of Contributed Reports run from CR-11-E through CR-11-N.

Pima County sued over Rosemont mine air permit

Rosemont Copper filed suit against the Pima County Dept. of Environmental Quality last Thursday, over delays in processing the air permit for the proposed mine. [right, proposed mine site in the Santa Rita Mountains. Credit, Rosemont Copper]

Company CEO Rod Pace told the Arizona Mining Alliance luncheon meeting today that the county was violating their own procedures and deadlines and after a year of delays, decided to take this action. Although the suit was filed with the court last week, Pace said they had been unable to contact the county employees who would be served. He expected to serve the papers this afternoon.

Northern Arizona mining withdrawal expected to be completed by end of November

BLM officials told attendees at the St. George hearing yesterday on mining in northern Arizona that the final EIS is expected to be delivered to the Secretary of Interior by the end of October, and the Secretary is expected to take action within 30 days to withdraw nearly 1 million acres of federal lands from mineral entry for 20 years. It had previously been thought the decision would not be made until January 2012.

Kris Hefton, with VANE Minerals, reported this information to the Arizona Mining Alliance meeting in Tucson. VANE was actively exploring for uranium in the withdrawal areas.
[right, withdrawal areas. Credit, BLM]

Florence copper project zoning hearing Sept 15

A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15 in Florence to consider reverting the zoning of the Florence copper project from its current residential status to its previous commercial zoning. Curis Resources staff briefed the Arizona Mining Alliance today in Tucson about the nature of the project and progress of the permitting process.

I also learned that Curis is a contraction of Cu Recovery In Situ. [right, location map of proposed Florence in situ copper project. Credit, Curis Resources]

Small Lake Mead quake this morning

A magnitude 2.0 earthquake at Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border this morning around 7:10 AM local time.

There have been similar small quakes in this area for months, that appear to be related to the lake filling with runoff coming down the Colorado River.

Park Service buys 26,500 acres of private land for Petrified Forest

The National Park Service has purchased 26,500 acres of private land to add to Petrified Forest National Park in eastern Arizona, at a cost of about $8 million, according to news reports this morning. The lands were owned by the Hatch family and used intermittently as a tourist site. As soon as we find a map showing the location, we'll post it. [right, photo credit Petrified Forest National Park]

Public hearing set on future of Arizona Geological Survey

The public hearing on the future of the Arizona Geological Survey is scheduled for 2:30 pm on Monday, October 17, in Phoenix.

Statutory authority for AZGS ends on June 30, 2012. The Legislature has convened a Committee of Reference to decide if AZGS should continue, be revised or consolidated, or terminated. We submitted our accomplishments for the past 10 years to the Committee along with an extensive response to 17 questions they posed about our role, benefits to Arizona, and options for the future.

The next step is the public hearing, which will be in Senate Hearing Room 109 at the State Capitol.

Following that, the Committee will make its recommendations in the form of draft legislation to be submitted to the full Legislature in January. This must be done by December 1.

We are waiting on details on how you can submit testimony to the Committee and will post that when we get it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Land needs for solar energy raise opposition

The BLM manages 12 million acres in Arizona, "Yet, a two-year effort by the BLM to identify possible sites for solar-power plants on its land in Arizona yielded consensus on only 25,000 acres. Every acre of the bureau’s land in Arizona seems to have at least one environmental organization or citizen’s group that wants to preserve it."

UA law professor Robert Glennon writes in Business Week today that the biggest challenge facing solar energy development in the U.S. is finding the "enormous tracts of land" needed. Glennon calculates that solar power will require 6 to 12 times the land area of equivalent plants using natural gas, coal, or nuclear.

Glennon argues "Environmental groups have opposed the bureau’s granting of permits for solar-power plants on these marginal lands because surveys have disclosed small numbers of important species, particularly the threatened desert tortoise. This opposition is understandable because all undisturbed land is habitat for some species. But not all habitats are crucial for the protection of endangered and threatened species."

Local officials from Arizona & Utah call for mining in Arizona Strip

A preliminary report in the St. George (Utah) News says the Economic Coalition of Five Counties and "the Arizona-Utah Coalition of Local Governments is currently fighting to keep the federal government from putting a stop to mining on the Arizona Strip." The group held a public hearing today in St. George that appears to have drawn mostly supporters of keeping federal lands open to mining to foster economic growth and provide a domestic source of uranium for nuclear power plants.

Opponents worry about possible pollution and water contamination. [right, uranium mine in northern Arizona. Credit, VANE Minerals]

The hearing was co-chaired by Mohave County Arizona Supervisor Buster Johnson, and Utah Commissioner Alan Gardner, representing Washington County. The hearing was supposed to have been broadcast live and recorded for later viewing.

Minority partner sought for Florence copper project.

Curis Resources, the junior mining company, planning to build an in-situ copper mine in outside Florence, is considering selling a minority stake in its project to a strategic investor, according to a report on

The article says Curis CEO Michael McPhie said in an interview that the company had already signed more than a dozen confidentiality agreements with companies interested in funding the estimated $238-million copper project. [right, project admin and storage buildings. Credit, Curis Resources]

The company's stock rose 3.7% on news that the Arizona State Land Dept. had sent a letter supporting the project.

Curis says "the Florence Copper Project site hosts a shallowly buried porphyry copper deposit with measured and indicated oxide mineral resources of 429.5 million tons grading 0.331% total copper (at a 0.05% total copper cutoff) and containing 2.84 billion pounds of copper."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Sneak preview of report on economic impact of copper mining in Arizona

The Arizona Mining Association is about to release a new report on the economic impact of copper [right, native copper. Credit, USGS] on Arizona for 2010, from George Leaming at the Western Economic Analysis Center. We have a preview of the summary results, courtesy of AMA:

In 2010, the Arizona copper industry had a combined direct and indirect impact on the Arizona economy of $12.101 Billion

• including combined direct and indited contributions of
$3.624 Billion in personal income, (equivalent to 73,100 jobs for Arizonans)
$7.876 Billion in business sales, and
$601 Million in state and local government revenues as a result of the circulation (and multiplication) of the copper industry's total direct impact of $3.676 Billion

• that included direct payments of
$194.396 Million (28% over 2009) to the State and its local governments in taxes and fees,
$2,511.919 Million (19% more than in 2009) to other Arizona businesses for products and services, and
$970.019 Million (26% above 2009) in personal income for Arizonans, including wages and salaries for the industry's 10,400 employees, who labored to produce 63% of the copper mined in the United States, i.e. 797,408 tons of copper plus other minerals with a total value of
$6.034 Billion (42% more than in 2009).

Topos for teachers

AZGS is making surplus topographic maps available to teachers at no cost for class room teaching uses. Sets of 20+ maps can be picked up at the AZGS bookstore by public school teachers.

Stop by our store at 416 W. Congress, Tucson, from 8am - 5pm, M-F.

ASU camera captures sharpest images ever of Apollo landing sites

ASU's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiting Camera has captured the most detailed photos ever of the Apollo 12, 14, and 17 landing sites.

"On August 10 a special pair of stationkeeping maneuvers were performed in place of the standard maneuvers, lowering LRO from its usual altitude of 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) to an altitude that dipped as low as 21 kilometers (nearly 13 miles) as it passed over the Moon’s surface."

[right, the twists and turns of the last tracks left by humans on the Moon crisscross the surface in this LRO image of the Apollo 17 site. In the thin lunar soil, the trails made by astronauts on foot can be easily distinguished from the dual tracks left by the lunar roving vehicle, or LRV. Also seen in this image are the descent stage of the Challenger lunar module and the LRV, parked to the east.

The LRV gave the Apollo 17 astronauts, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, considerable mobility. As in previous Apollo missions, the astronauts set up the lunar monitoring equipment known as the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), the details of which varied from mission to mission. To the west of the landing site, the cross-shaped path that the astronauts made as they set up the geophones to monitor seismic activity can be seen.

To the east, more rover tracks can be seen. Cernan made these when he laid out the 35-meter antennas for the Surface Electrical Properties, or SEP, experiment. SEP, a separate investigation from ALSEP, characterized the electrical properties of the lunar soil.

Below the SEP experiment is where the astronauts parked the rover, in a prime spot to shoot video of the liftoff of the Challenger module. Credit, NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]

[Taken in part from the ASU news release]

Monday, September 05, 2011

Sci-Tech Festival shaping up for Centennial

The Arizona Science & Tech Festival is shaping up to be a center-piece of the Arizona Centennial in 2012. The Festival "will collaborate with more than 200 organizations in the state to integrate science in events with hands-on activities and workshops, discussions, exhibitions, concerts and tours during February," according to organizer Jeremy Babendure.

The Flinn Foundation profiled Jeremy last week as one of their alumni. This is what he had to say about the Festival:
We anticipate the festival will reach 100,000+ Arizonans through 300+ activities that take place in diverse neighborhoods throughout the state with: signature events highlighting the innovative character of each region (aerospace, technology, bioscience) with high energy exhibitions and shows; 20+ neighborhood hubs providing workshop and discussion opportunities at accessible locations such as libraries and community centers; tours of science/technology facilities statewide; and activities, talks and challenges in-schools to get kids engaged before, during and post festival.

Tunneling under Lake Mead

Las Vegas is digging a 1,500 foot long tunnel, 600 feet below ground through bedrock to suck water from Lake Mead, in case the lake level drops too low for the existing intake to draw water. "Intake No. 3 will maintain SNWA's ability to draw upon Colorado River water at lake elevations as low as 1,000 feet above sea level, assuring system capacity if lake levels fell low enough to put Intake No. 1 out of service." [right, Intake 3 tunnel. Credit, SNWA]

The starter tunnel is complete, ready for the boring machine to be lowered into it for assembly. An earlier starter tunnel was abandoned after it hit a fault zone and unstable rock.
SNWA has a short video explaining the project.

Arizona Minerals Yearbook 2007 released

The advance release copy of Volume 2 of the USGS Mineral Yearbook 2007 [right] arrived recently and is available online. There is a chapter for each state, including one for Arizona prepared in cooperation with the Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources (which was consolidated with AZGS last month).

In addition, the advance release for the national 2008 Statistical Summary came out in June and for the 2009 Statistical Summary in August.

From the abstract for the 2007 Vol 2:
In 2007, Arizona’s nonfuel raw mineral production was valued at $7.26 billion, based upon annual U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data. This was a $510 million, or 7.6%, increase from the State’s total nonfuel mineral value in 2006, which then had increased by $2.4 billion, or up more than 55%, from that of 2005. In 2007, for the third consecutive year, Arizona led the Nation in total nonfuel mineral production value among the 50 States, accounting for 10.4% of the U.S. total. Arizona continued to be the Nation’s leading copperproducing State in 2007 and accounted for 63% of the total U.S. copper mine production. Copper was the State’s foremost nonfuel mineral produced, accounting for nearly 73% of the total nonfuel mineral production value, followed in descending order of value by molybdenum, construction sand and gravel (with 9% of the State’s total value), cement (portland and masonry), crushed stone (about 2% of the value), and lime.

Gold and silver recover, but where next?

Gold has just pushed back over $1,900 an ounce this morning, recovering most of the $150 drop of the past weeks but where does it go next? A summary of analysts projections on sees it anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 an ounce. [right, gold nugget from Smithsonian Institution]

Here at AZGS, we are getting more questions about gold mining than anyone recalls. Watch this cautionary interview about gold investments and scams, that ran on Phoenix PBS Channel 8's Horizon show earlier this year.

Geo books and journals sought for Mexico universities

Tucson-based geologist Peter Megaw has led local efforts through the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society for many years to collect geology texts and references and donate them to a variety of Mexico universities. By donating your books and journals to the TGMS, which is a non-profit (501-C3) organization, you can also claim a deduction on your federal taxes. TGMS does not provide estimates of the value of your donation. That's up to you or you should get them appraised.

Peter invites you to contact him (+1 520-529-2231, office) and arrange to drop off your books at the storage unit where they are held until Peter delivers them to the schools in Mexico.

Peter shared that the IRS requires donations valued at more than $4,000 in any year, require a professional appraisal.

Using fossil leaves to track ancient climates

The University of Arizona is the world center for using tree rings to understand ancient environments. Now, a new process at UA using fossil leaf veins may offer new tools for measuring ancient climate.

An article in Nature newsblog says Benjamin Blonder, "an ecologist at the University of Arizona working with Brian Enquist, collected leaves from about 65 species from temperate North America. His preliminary models suggest that vein density can predict with a surprising degree of accuracy climatic factors temperature and precipitation."

They are now going to see if the procedure works in other climates. [right, chokecherry. Credit, USGS]

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Water resources report due in October

The latest issue of the Arizona Hydrologic Society is out and AHS Corporate Board President Alan Dulaney offers insights in his column on key water issues facing Arizona.

He writes that "The Water Resources Development Commission, established by House Bill 2661, has been meeting for over a year. Many of the subcommittees have been meeting frequently during that time period in order to get their reports ready. The overall report is due to the Arizona Legislature in October 2011. The reports that are ready can be viewed on the ADWR Website at:" Alan observed that "some of the representative of more rural counties seemed startled to find that they were identified as potentially short of water by 2060..."

He also commented on the longer running appraisal study that the Bureau of Reclamation has been doing for all the states in the Colorado River watershed. "ADWR has participated in this study, and the Water Atlas has formed a major chunk of what was utilized for Arizona. Coincidentally, the Water Atlas was also at the heart of the report provided by the Water Supply and Demand Subcommittee for the WRDC. The Water Atlas was an important piece of work for ADWR over the last several years. It is a sad comment on the agency’s fate that most of the people who developed it are now gone..."

The AHS Annual Symposium is coming up in Flagstaff, Sept. 18-20.

Arizona coal production up 3.7% in 2010

Arizona's coal production in 2010 was up 3.7% over 2009 to 7.8 million tons, reversing a decline from 8.2 tons in 2006, according to the annual U.S. coal report from DOE's Energy Information Administration.

Arizona's coal comes from the Black Mesa field on the Colorado Plateau, located on the Navajo Nation and Hopi tribal reservations. It is used for electric power generation at the Navajo Generating Station near Page.

[right, coal resources of Arizona. AZGS Bulletin 180]

Saturday, September 03, 2011

State Lands says Florence Copper project is "no substantial threat" to the environment

The Arizona State Land Department has found that the proposed Florence Copper Project presents "no substantial threat" to the environment and the economic benefits outweigh other concerns, according to a story in the Casa Grande Dispatch.

The article quotes opponents to the project, led by owners of nearby lands intended for residential and commercial development, who argue that State Lands has a financial interest in the project, so their decision is not independent. The in situ mining project includes 160 acres of state trust lands out of the 1,342 total acres, expected to generate $100 - $150 million in royalties to the trust fund over 20-25 years. [right, injection well for in situ project. Credit, Curis Resources]

They also argue that the value of over 3,000 acres of nearby state trust lands will be "drastically diminished" by the copper project and that violates the departments obligation to maximize revenue for its beneficiaries.

My calculation is that for State Land to walk away from $100-150 million in order to purportedly maintain the property values on another 3,000 acres, those lands would have to lose value at the rate of $33,000 - $50,000 per acre.

NASA's Desert RATS back in Arizona

NASA's Desert RATS (Research and Technology Studies) Team is back in the field in northern Arizona for a multi-week test of astronaut habitats and field vehicles for extended missions to other planets and asteroids.

The Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team "evaluates technology, human-robotic systems and extravehicular equipment in the high desert near Flagstaff, Ariz. Field testing provides a knowledge base that helps scientists and engineers design, build and operate better equipment, and establish requirements for operations and procedures. The Arizona desert has a rough, dusty terrain and extreme temperature swings that simulate conditions that may be encountered on other surfaces in space."

The Desert RATS team is webcasting live from the 2011 analog field tests in Black Point Lava Flow. Other education and outreach activities are online.

Students and space fans young and old are invited to the Desert RATS Community Day from 1 – 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. It will be held at this year's Desert RATS test site, located 40 miles north of Flagstaff on U.S. Highway 89, less than one mile past the 454-mile marker, on the right.

The Desert RATS team is also testing an enhanced version of the Habitat Demonstration Unit (bottom right).

Forensics geology

Forensic geology is becoming a well established field of research and practice.

"The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) Initiative on Forensic Geology was established at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France on 22 Feburary 2011. The aim of the IUGS-IoFG is, ‘to develop forensic geology internationally and promote its applications’."

The IUGS Initiative moving forward with publication of A Guide to Forensic Geology and two reference books are coming out shortly. The website history shows the idea of forensic geology got started in 1975 with the publication of Forensic Geology by Murray and Tedrow. But it wasn't until 2002 that a presentation to the UK House of Commons kicked off interest in formalizing the field.

My friend Sarah Andrews published her first geo-murder mystery featuring forensic geologist Em Hansen in 1994, and 10 more after that so far. Here in Arizona, geologist-writer Susan Cummins Miller writes her own forensic geology mystery series featuring Frankie MacFarlane.

A tip of the hat to Andrew Alden for first blogging about this

Public input sought on mining in N. Arizona

A meeting in St. George Utah, next Wednesday will take public input on the withdrawal from mineral exploration and development of nearly one million acres of federal lands in northern Arizona. [right, withdrawn areas in cross hatch. Credit, BLM] The

A story in the Mohave Daily News says "At their July board meeting, the [Mohave County] supervisors voted to submit a letter to National Association of Counties to support uranium mining on federal Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands in Northern Arizona including the Arizona Strip area." Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson announced he will attend the meeting to support lifting the withdrawal imposed by the Secretary of Interior.

Freeport talks about its economic impacts in Arizona

"In 2010, Freeport-McMoRan had a total estimated impact of $2.1 billion to Arizona. Within our Southern Arizona counties, Freeport-McMoRan had a total estimated impact of $920 million in 2010," according to company spokesman Gabe Doak, in an interview published by Inside Tucson Business. Freeport operates 5 copper mines in Arizona.

Freeport is completing a study to add mining and milling capacity at Morenci, that would add "150 to 200 million pounds of incremental annual copper production within a two to three year time frame."

"Also under consideration are a further expansion at Morenci mine, expansions at Sierrita and Bagdad, and mining restarts at Twin Buttes and Ajo."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Flagstaff Festival of Science

A heads up that the Flagstaff Festival of Science gets underway Sept. 23 with a 7pm lecture by former astronaut Dr. John Grunsfeld, now deputy director of the Hubble Space Science Institute. "He’ll be sharing Hubble’s expansive collection of spectacular images such as star births in the extreme, sheets of debris, shredded remains of old supernovas and light echoing from supergiant stars" at the Ardrey Auditorium at NAU.

The Festival runs through October 2.

Declining precipitation in the West

An article in JAWRA, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, was reviewed by jfleck at inkstain, who reports that data point to declining precipitation in the West, although the authors warn that the 30-year time frame of measurements may be too short to be statistically meaningful. [right, Colorado River end. Credit USGS]
  • 86% of 398 SNOTEL sites around the western United States show decreasing water year precipitation
  • 87% of the 79 sites in the Colorado River Basin showed decreasing water year precipitation

Article first published online: 23 JUN 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00565.x