AZGS Web Posts

A white new year's in the Tucson Mountains

Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-01-01 08:04
Snow began falling in the Tucson Mountains after 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve.  We awoke this morning with a light dusting on the slope.   The saguaros have snow on their west-facing sides (below). 

With the bright sun and clear skies, it should all be gone in a few hours.

Happy new year!

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Special episode of Arizona Mining Review video magazine from the SME Arizona Conference

Arizona Geology Blog - Wed, 2014-12-31 17:15
The AMR crew was at the recent SME Arizona Conference at the Starr Pass Resort outside Tucson and we interviewed a number of the speakers and prominent attendees about current developments in Arizona mining.  We also sat down with the legendary David Lowell to talk about his new book, "Intrepid Explorer: The Autobiography of the World's Best Mine Finder."

The nearly 90-minute special episode was webcast this morning but you can watch it on our YouTube channel at

Additional episodes are at the AMR Playlist:

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New Discoveries Lecture Series launched at ASU will look at Earth-like planets

Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2014-12-28 19:35

On January 29, join Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, for the inaugural lecture in the SESE New Discoveries series. Dr. Elkins-Tanton will present a lecture on "Building Earth-like planets: From gas and dust to ocean worlds."

The SESE New Discoveries Lecture Series is designed to bring the exciting scientific work of SESE to the general public in a series of informative and up-to-date evening lectures. Each will be given by a member of the SESE faculty.

Lectures will be given in the Marston Exploration Theater. They are free and open to the public.

For more details and to RSVP,  visit

[taken from the SESE newsletter]

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Big turnout at SME Arizona conference

Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2014-12-28 17:04
Over 500 attended the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, & Exploration's (SME) 2014 Arizona Conference earlier this month at the Starr Pass Resort in Tucson.   So many showed up that the organizers were scrambling to set up enough tables to accommodate everyone at lunch.

The day-long technical program on Monday, Dec. 8 had multiple concurrent technical sessions  Mining Technolgy, Regulations in Arizona, Mineral Processing, Geology, Mexico, Blasting, and New Projects.

The big turnout came as a bit of a surprise, given the drop in commodity prices and uncertainty over a number of major projects.  This suggests a quiet optimism in the industry and that folks are in for the long term.

We interviewed half a dozen of the presenters for a special year-end episode of our online video magazine, Arizona Mining Review, which will be broadcast on Dec. 30, then posted to YouTube.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Overwelming week for AZGS at the AGU Fall Meeting

Arizona Geology Blog - Sat, 2014-12-27 20:10
The Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union drew nearly 25,000 attendees to San Francisco, which made it an major forum for AZGS projects.

The weekend prior to the regular meeting, we hosted the Steering Committee of the Belmont Forum e-Infrastructure project for a 2-day workshop on the strategic plan and recommendations to science funding agencies of 13 countries and the European Union.  We had 25+ participants from a dozen countries join us in one of the converted buildings from the old Ft. Mason on the San Francisco waterfront [top right].   Members of the U.S. delegation to the Belmont Forum joined us for lunch on Monday for a briefing and to review plans for preparing the final report.

AZGS staffed two booths in the Exhibit Hall as part of outreach elements for the Belmont Forum and EarthCube projects.   We also organized and hosted town hall meetings for those projects [right, EarthCube town hall].  The newly-elected EarthCube Demonstration Governance Leadership Council met for the first time, under the auspices of the NSF-funded AZGS project.

AZGS staff were lead authors on 3 technical posters - EarthCube, National Geothermal Data System, USGIN open data solutions - one talk on Belmont Forum, and co-authors on multiple other presentations, including OneGeology, and EarthCube building blocks.

I also had the honor of serving on a Union Session "Great Debate on Open Data" with three others.   It was an experimental format that seemed to go over well and the organizers expect to do more sessions like this next year. 

The International Geological Sample Numbering system (IGSN) celebrated its 10th anniversary at the meeting, with a board meeting and town hall.  AZGS is one of the founding members of the formal non-profit corporation and is authorized to issue numbering systems to U.S. entities.

With all those folks at the meeting, we had nearly non-stop conversations with colleagues and partners about ongoing and potentially new projects.
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Lowell Institute short course on Structural Analysis of Systems of Structures

Arizona Geology Blog - Sat, 2014-12-27 18:40

The Lowell Program in Economic Geology announces the opening of registration for their first Short Course on Structural Analysis of Systems of Structures, which will take place from Saturday, March 14th to Sunday, March 22nd, 2015. The nine-day, field-based course will be led by Professors George H. Davis and Stephen J. Reynolds and will be based in Tucson, Arizona. World renown exploration geologist J. David Lowell, benefactor of the Lowell Program in Economic Geology and Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, is also planning to make an appearance during the course. A tentative outline of the short course is given below.  [Right, West-vergent Laramide reverse fault, looking north, Huachuca Mountains, southern Arizona. Slope-forming Cambrian Abrigo Formation overlies cliffs of Bolsa Quartzite. In hanging wall of fault, Bolsa Quartzite is internally shortened via giant, extremely angular kink folds.]

The Lowell Program in Economic Geology appreciates the financial support of Newmont Mining Company for their short courses in recent years.

Course Details for Short Course on Structural Analysis of Systems of Structures
The main emphasis of this short course is to provide participants with additional grounding in and experiences in describing and interpreting geologic structures, fault rocks, 3-D geometries, and fabrics associated with deformation. The instructors for this short course are Professors George H. Davis, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Stephen J. Reynolds, Arizona State University, Tempe

The course will be based in Tucson, Arizona, with easy access to first-class geological exposures, and (normally) pleasant spring weather conditions. There will be 9 days of engagement, with 1.5 days of classroom presentations and 7.5 days in the field. The course will focus not only on individual geologic structures, but systems of structures. Field examples and exposures will highlight both extensional and contractional systems, and in each case examples range from shallow to deep expressions. Some of the field exercises are held in mining districts. Topics covered in the short course include fault and shear zone analysis, metamorphic core complexes and associated faults, breccia pipes and related igneous systems, fold analysis, folds in thrust duplexes, jointing, and evaluating complex geologic map relationships.

Some of the field work will engage participants in evaluating outcrop relationships and deciding (1) what needs to be mapped, measured, recorded, sketched, and photographed; (2) how best to go about it; and (3) how to interpret the geological significance of key relationships. Some of the fieldwork will engage participants in tracking and mapping geological contacts (such as faults, shear zones, igneous contacts). The overall objective is to stimulate greater efficiencies and competencies in deciphering challenging structural geological relationships and histories. Knowledge gained will be applicable to most aspects of empirical geological inquiry, no matter whether the data sources are outcrops, geologic maps, cross sections, thin sections, seismic reflection profiles, pit slopes, or drill hole data.

Participants should plan to arrive in Tucson no later than Friday evening 13 March and depart from Tucson no earlier than the morning of Monday, 23 March 2015. The Marriot Hotel, which borders the University of Arizona campus, will be the base of operations.

The early registration cost of the short course for non-university participants is US$3,200, which includes ground transportation, all lunches in the field, and a final dinner. Breakfasts and all other dinners are the responsibility of participants. Industry participants also will need to provide their own transportation to and from Tucson as well as their accommodations. Please respond via e-mail to for reservations, registration, and questions. Register soon!

Please find attached to this letter all registration materials (registration and foreign visitor statement forms in English and in Spanish, as well as the documentation required for foreign nationals (non-US citizens) so that you can forward this information to your co-workers and friends).

Visit the webpage: to learn more about the program and short courses.

[reprinted from the announcement]
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database and Map Viewer

Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2014-12-26 18:21
USGS Updates the National Produced Waters Geochemical Database and Map Viewer!The USGS has updated the National Produced Waters Geochemical Database and Map Viewer "to include trace elements, isotopes, and time-series data, as well as nearly 100,000 new samples with greater spatial coverage and from both conventional and unconventional well types, including geothermal. The provisional database is a compilation of 25 individual databases, publications, or reports."

The data for Arizona [right] come from oil exploration wells on the Colorado Plateau and what the USGS describes as 'geothermal' sources in the northwest corner of the state.

The database is expected to be updated with new data as provided and needed.

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Monitoring Land Subsidence in Arizona Due to Excessive Groundwater Withdrawal Using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) Data

Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2014-12-26 17:45

Arizona's land subsidence program was described in a technical presentation at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, by Brian Conway, from AZ Dept. of Water Resources.  The conference drew a record attendance of nearly 25,000.  His abstract provides a nice overview of the program and its impacts:

Land subsidence due to excess groundwater overdraft has been an ongoing problem in south-central and southern Arizona since the1940’s. The first earth fissure attributed to excessive groundwater withdrawal was discovered in 1946 near Picacho, Arizona. In some areas of the State, groundwater declines of more than 400 feet have resulted in extensive earth fissuring and widespread land subsidence; land subsidence of more than 19 feet has been documented near Phoenix and Eloy.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has been monitoring land subsidence throughout Arizona since 1997 using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) Data and Global Navigation Satellite System Data. The ADWR InSAR program has proven to be a critical resource in monitoring land subsidence throughout Arizona, resulting in the identification of more than twenty-five individual land subsidence features that cover an area of more than 1,200 square miles. The majority of these land subsidence features are a direct result of groundwater declines attributed to groundwater overdraft.

Using InSAR data in conjunction with both automated and manual groundwater level datasets, ADWR is able to monitor active land subsidence areas as well as identify other areas that may require additional InSAR monitoring. InSAR data have also proven to be extremely useful in monitoring land surface uplift associated with rising groundwater levels near groundwater recharge facilities. InSAR data can show the impact of the recharged groundwater as the area of uplift extends down gradient from the recharge facility.
Some highlights of recent InSAR results include the identification of a new land subsidence feature in the eastern portion of Metropolitan Phoenix where groundwater levels have recently declined; the identification of changes to a floodplain that may be exacerbating recent flooding; seasonal land subsidence and uplift related to seasonal groundwater demands; and the identification of uplift related to groundwater recharge facilities.

The declining groundwater levels in Arizona are both a challenge for future groundwater availability but also for mitigating land subsidence. ADWR’s InSAR program will continue to be a critical tool for monitoring land subsidence due to excessive groundwater withdrawal.
Reference: Brian Conway, "Monitoring Land Subsidence in Arizona Due to Excessive Groundwater Withdrawal Using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) Data," American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, December 17, 2014

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Boy Scouts offer mining merit badge

Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2014-12-26 17:39
The Boy Scouts of America is now offering a merit badge for Mining in Society.  The Scouts had an informational table at the SME Arizona Conference here in Tucson earlier this month that was drawing a lot of attention.  Details on the requirements to earn the badge are posted at

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Two small quakes on Arizona - Utah border

Arizona Geology Blog - Wed, 2014-12-24 12:02
There were two small quakes in northern Arizona in the past few days. 

A magnitude 2.4 event hit 8 miles south of Colorado City on Dec. 22 at about 4:27 p.m. local time [yellow dot marks epicenter.   Credit, USGS]

A magnitude 1.3 quake occurred on Dec. 23, at 11:57 a.m. local time, about 6 miles ESE of Colorado City [epicenter marked by orange dot].

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Resolution Copper land swap bill signed into law

Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2014-12-23 17:17

President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Ac, which includes a provision for the land swap (Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act) needed for the underground Resolution Copper mine to move forward.

Resolution said, "The heart of the legislation is the exchange of 2,400 acres of federally owned land above the copper deposit for 5,300 acres of land owned by Resolution Copper composed of valuable recreational, conservation and culturally significant land throughout Arizona."   A story on reported that "The high-value conservations land were identified through the input from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Audubon Society and others. The swap consolidates ownership of the land where the mine will be developed and operated."

Resolution Copper provided this summary of the parcels involved in the land exchange:

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Baja quake in 2010 generated hundreds of landslides

Arizona Geology Blog - Sat, 2014-12-20 20:09

The 2010 Cucapah earthquake in Baja California, triggered hundreds of landslides that sent up dust clouds all along the mountain range.

David Petley, who writes the Landslide Blog, and his colleagues used remote sensing data and  quantified the number (452)  and volume of landslides (2.6 million cubic meters) in the Cucapah Mountains as a direct result of the April 2010, M7.2 earthquake.  Their study is published in the journal Geomorphology

In his blog post, David noted that steep slopes generated more landslides, "But interestingly, we also found that there was a strong influence exerted by slope orientation.  In particular, those slopes orientated perpendicular to the fault were four times more likely to fail than those orientated parallel to the fault.  The reasons for this are not clear at present."
Reference: Barlow, J., Barisin, I., Rosser, N., Petley, D.,  Densmore, A. and Wright, T. 2014. Seismically-induced mass movements and volumetric fluxes resulting from the 2010 Mw = 7.2 earthquake in the Sierra Cucapah, Mexico, Geomorphology, Available online 24 November 2014,

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Oak Creek - Mormon Lake graben described in new book on Oak Creek Watershed

Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2014-12-19 11:15

There is a new book out from the Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC) describing the hydrology, hydrogeology, geology, ecology, and history of the Oak Creek Canyon watershed. Well-known geologist Paul Lindberg contributed to hydrology and wrote the geology section, which includes a description of the newly-discovered Oak Creek - Mormon Lake graben. 
The book is timely and may help put recent earthquakes in the area in context. Paul led several field trips around the Oak Creek-Mormon Lake graben during the past two years for the AIPG, AHS and OCWC as well as presenting two talks to AHS symposia in 2012 and 2013. Paul tells us that "the new graben the newest basin and range feature in Arizona that is slowly migrating eastward into the Colorado Plateau along with a right-lateral torqueing of the boundary between the Colorado Plateau and fully broken-up basin and range topography."  Paul shared his map showing the boundary of the new graben that he estimates is "only 2-3 million years old and still growing, as evidenced by the recent earthquake 2 weeks ago. It is clear to me that the structural basin is still enlarging and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, along with modest to locally severe seismic activity."

Paul's talking with our professional societies about leading a day-long field trip around the rift valley in the near future.

We will carrying copies for sale at the Arizona Experience store at AZGS offices in Tucson.   It is paperback, 8.5" x 11" and 104 pages long. It contains 6 chapters dealing with all aspects of the watershed. ISBN 978-1505347623.  Retail price is $25.

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Governor-elect sets up Transition Teams for State Lands, Water, Energy, & Environment

Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2014-12-07 13:53
Governor-elect Doug Ducey [right] has set up half a dozen subcommittees as part of his transition team, including one to address State Trust Lands and one on Water, Environment, and Energy.   Co-chairs were announced for each.

His website - - said he is "committed to managing Arizona’s state trust land to maximize a value for its beneficiaries. These co-chairs have significant experience working with state government managing its public lands. They’ll be able to counsel Ducey regarding these issues with Arizona’s best interests in mind."   The co-chairs are:
  • Steve Betts, Former SunCor Development Company President 
  • Cheryl Lombard, Government Relations Director of the Arizona Chapter of The Nature Conservancy 
Ducey said, “Managing our state’s assets is key in my role as state treasurer and it will be just as important as governor. In order to best benefit all Arizonans, I need to ensure we are managing our assets as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
The subcommittee on water, environmental and energy issue is being chaired by:
    •    Lisa Atkins, Board Member, Central Arizona Project    •    Jose Esparza, Vice President/Energy Solutions, Southwest Gas Corporation    •    Pat Graham, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona
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Water-related issues facing the new governor and legislature

Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2014-12-07 08:44
The current issue of the Arizona Hydrological Society carries an editorial by Alan Dulaney outlining some of the challenges related to water facing the new governor and legislature when they take office in January.   As usual, Alan doesn't pull any punches:
The election season is over.  Once the session begins in January, the new Legislature will have their hands full with the budget for the next fiscal year—a deficit of $1.5 billion is currently projected.  This might mean serious cuts in the General Fund budgets for ADWR and ADEQ.  Yet the head of Governor Ducey’s transition team, former Senator Jon Kyl, has promoted moving the adjudications process somewhat faster than its current glacial gait.  ADWR will likely be called upon to support such an effort.  ADEQ will potentially have new EPA rules or guidance that will increase their regulatory role under the Clean Water Act.  All of which will require a commitment of state resources, meaning money. 

Lack of money is also an issue in the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, headquartered at the Coconino National Forest, to better manage Arizona’s unnaturally dense forests.  Almost 25% of the largest stand of Ponderosa pine in the West has burned over the last decade.  The hydrological damage becomes evident after the fires are out.   We saw the dramatic hydrological aftermath of the Schulz Fire on an AHS field trip in 2011.  Increased sediment load and more frequent flooding are the result of removing the vegetation as the scorched earth no longer slows runoff.  The ash-laden streams cause severe environmental damage downstream.  The sediment can get into the water supply, causing expensive problems at municipal treatment plants.  It is safer and cheaper to thin forests like the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto, than to continue to fight every fire to save every twig.  Thinning keeps the forest more natural; fire stays on the ground and thus becomes less intensive.  Less intensive fires are ultimately less of a threat to the water supply.  Salt River Project has been a leading supporter of large-scale forest thinning in the interest of protecting the water supply.  But money is short, and the target acreage is big. The aphorism “Water flows uphill towards money,” is only partially true anymore.  Now we should say:  “Money goes where water flows.”  Wall Street banks, bonding agencies, venture firms and other entities with capital to invest—which the state needs—are watching to see if Arizona can solve its water issues.  One measure is the degree to which Arizona will fund its regulatory agencies as well as efforts to address the hydrological problems resulting from forest fires on its watersheds.  Politicians take note:  you weren’t elected to fiddle while we burn.                                                                                             Alan Dulaney
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Resolution Copper land swap passes U.S. House

Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2014-12-07 08:34
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a package of lands bills, among them the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act.  The latter involves transfer of about 2,400 acres of Forest Service and BLM lands for 5,300 acres of private lands identified by conservation groups as critical lands [right, map of lands involved in exchange. Credit, Resolution Copper].   Resolution Copper says the land exchange is essential for them to move forward with development of the giant underground copper mine near Superior.  The

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, whose district includes the mine site released this statement:
The land exchange in this legislation has been modified from the original bill so that the transfer of the federal Oak Flat property will not occur until after an environmental study is performed on the mine and other activities related to the land exchange — which meets a key concern of environmental advocates. Native American interests are also reflected in the bill, which has been modified to ensure that tribes can access the Oak Flat campground for years to come unless the area is deemed unsafe. And the legislation designates 807 acres of the Apache Leap Cliffs as a “special management area,” which places it under U.S. Forest Service protection and ensures the cliffs cannot be damaged by the mine.Resolution Copper described the key provisions of the land exchange bill at

  • Land in and around the Oak Flat Campground, which is needed for our mining operations, will be transferred from the federal government to Resolution Copper. In return, Resolution Copper will transfer to the government more than 5,300 acres of high-priority conservation lands.
  • 110 acres of Resolution Copper’s private land transferred to the US Forest Service to protect the south end of Apache Leap.
  • The scenic escarpment above the Town of Superior, known as Apache Leap, remains under management of the US Forest Service.
  • 3,050 acres known as the 7B Ranch on the San Pedro River, possibly the largest and oldest mesquite bosque in Arizona, transfers to the Bureau of Land Management and becomes a new unit of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
  • The BLM acquires an additional 940-acre parcel inside the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch and Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.
The legislation must also be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.

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