Arizona Geology Blog

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blog of the State Geologist of ArizonaLee Allison
Updated: 4 hours 28 min ago

Agreement on making geoscience data available worldwide

Wed, 2015-01-21 16:08
The OneGeology Board meeting wrapped up yesterday with plans to provide umbrella coordination to develop interoperability among regional geoscience data networks as part of the consortium's strategic goal of providing access to geoscience data worldwide.

Chris Pigram [right, center], CEO of Geoscience Australia and Chair of the OneGeology Board, hosted the meeting at GA headquarters in Canberra.

We are going to start by linking data systems in the U.S. (USGIN, managed by the Arizona Geological Survey), European Union (developing under the INSPIRE initiative) and East-Southeast Asia (under the CCOP- Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia).   Conversations will be initiated with related systems being organized on other continents.

One of the major topics of the 3-day session was on long-term sustainability for OneGeology, with a diversified set of revenue sources identified including country memberships dues, government and foundation grants, consortia support for specific technical projects, industry sponsorship, and conferences.

OneGeology is an international consortium of over 130 organizations in 117 countries, with the majority of the members being Geological Survey Organizations.  The web portal initially provided access to maps from the participants creating a digital geologic map of the world at a scale of 1:1 million or better.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

State land wilderness bill in Arizona legislature

Tue, 2015-01-20 20:10
House Bill 2314 in the Arizona Legislature is titled "Public Lands Policy Coordination Office," but its primary purpose is to "Create a wilderness preservation system in this state" on lands owned by the State other than Trust Lands.  [Right, Arizona Capitol].    It is complexly written and we are still analyzing what it means, particularly for natural resources on the lands proposed for wildnerness status.

AZGS would be given two tasks in the bill:
G.  The agency managing and administering a protected wilderness area shall coordinate with the Arizona geological survey to develop and conduct surveys of a protected wilderness area on a planned, recurring basis in order to determine the mineral values, if any, that may be present in the protected wilderness area.  The surveys must be taken in a manner that is consistent with wildlife management and preservation principles.  A copy of a completed survey shall be made available to the public, the governor and the legislature.
I.  Any newly issued lease, permit or license for land within a protected wilderness area shall contain stipulations, as determined by the agency managing and administering the protected wilderness area in consultation with the state land department and the Arizona geological survey, for the protection of the wilderness character of the land, consistent with the use of the land for the purpose for which it is leased, permitted or licensed.

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Bill would ban hydraulic fracturing in Arizona

Sun, 2015-01-18 19:30
A bill introduced into the Arizona legislature would ban the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" for oil and gas.  The bill amends the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality statutes.

HB2463 defines it as   "Hydraulic fracturing" means the process of pumping a fluid into or under the surface of the ground in order to create fractures in rock for the purpose of the production or recovery of oil or natural gas."

The specific language in section 49-211 states "Hydraulic fracturing prohibited A person may not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this state and may not collect, store or treat water in this state if that water is used in, generated by or resulting from the process of hydraulic fracturing."   [Right, schematic diagram of hydraulic fracturing process. Credit, US EPA]

There is no hydraulic fracturing going on in Arizona and it was only used historically in a few exploration wells that never went into production.    Residents in Santa Cruz County have been concerned about two proposed oil and gas exploration wells in the area even though the operator has stated repeatedly that they are not going to frack those wells.  The company also does not have permits to do so.

The bill was introduced by Representatives Mendez, Sherwood, Andrade, and Velasquez.

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Magnitude 3.1 earthquake in northwest Arizona

Sun, 2015-01-18 19:15
A magnitude 3.1 earthquake struck at 4:21 p.m. local time on Saturday, about 40 miles ESE of Kingman.  It was followed less a half hour later with a magnitude 2.1 aftershock in the same area.   [Right, location of mainshock epicenter in orange.  Credit, USGS]

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

EPA open house and public hearing on Florence Copper in situ recovery project

Wed, 2015-01-14 17:15

The US Environmental Protection Agency has scheduled an open house and public hearing on the proposed in situ copper recovery operation proposed in Florence. The open house will be held 4-6 pm, January 22, 2015, in Florence High School at 100 S. Main in Florence.

The EPA public hearing will take place in the same location from 7-10 pm.

Florence Copper would pump a mild acidic solution through wells drilled into the underground copper deposit and recover the dissolved copper at the surface. [Right, schematic geologic cross section showing in situ recovery process. Credit, Florence Copper]  Opponents are worried about the potential for groundwater pollution and possible impacts on proposed housing developments in the area.  

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

AZGS hires first-ever Deputy Director

Tue, 2015-01-13 17:14
The Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) recently hired Chris Hanson as its first ever Deputy Director. Chris joins the AZGS with more than 17 years leadership experience, including senior positions with the American Society of Civil Engineers as Director of the Coasts, Oceans, Ports & Rivers Institute, and also with the National Society of Professional Engineers, International Dark Skies Association, and the Critical Path Institute.

Chris' experience also includes working in state government earth science and environmental programs, having served previously with AZGS to help develop its successful $21 million grant funded project with the U.S. Department of Energy to populate and deploy the National Geothermal Data System, and with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in both field operations and in its planning office. Chris has earned the Certified Association Executive designation through the American Society of Association Executives.

Over the past 15 years, Chris has focused on developing, implementing, and managing complex scientific and technical programs across diverse disciplines. This makes him the ideal selection as our deputy director. 

AZGS operates in an entrepreneurial model where grants and contracts account for 90% of its funding to support AZGS's mission to make the state safer from natural hazards and to support the wise use of Arizona's natural resources. AZGS is also increasingly a leader in national and international cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Legislation filed to have AZGS establish a mining and mineral museum

Mon, 2015-01-12 16:26
Arizona State Senator Ed Ableser introduced a bill to have the Arizona Geological Survey establish "a mining and mineral museum as the state depository for collecting, cataloging and displaying mining artifacts and specimens of various ores, gemstones and lapidary material and other valuable mineral specimens."

Senate Bill 1016, went through its first reading today and was assigned to the Appropriations Committee.  

Sen. Ableser introduced similar legislation in previous sessions but none of them moved out of committee.   Although the bill does not state it explicitly, most readers interpret it to mean AZGS would restore the former Mining & Mineral Museum [right] in Phoenix, run by the Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources.  The museum building was transferred to the Arizona Historical Society in 2010 in anticipation of converting it to a Centennial Museum, but the funding never materialized to support that.  ADMMR was merged with AZGS in 2011.

Advocates for the mineral museum have been trying to get it restored since then.

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Global overview of potash released by USGS

Sun, 2015-01-11 20:12
The USGS has released it's long-awaited global review of potash resources.   The report, "Potash—A global overview of evaporite-related potash resources, including spatial databases of deposits, occurrences, and permissive tracts." 

The senior authors, Greta Orris and Mark Cocker, work out of the USGS Minerals Office in Tucson and have provided progress reports on the study in recent years to local professional meetings.

Arizona's Holbrook basin has only widely recognized as a world-class resource following the 2008 AZGS report describing the size and nature of the resource.    The breakup of the Uralkali potash marketing cartel two years disrupted potash development efforts worldwide, including proposals fot two underground mines in Arizona, capable of producing 1 -2 million tonnes per plant per year.   The cartel has since reformed, but the markets are settled. ruffled further by the great recession.

Citation:Orris, G.J., Cocker, M.D., Dunlap, P., Wynn, Jeff, Spanski, G.T., Briggs, D.A., and Gass, L., with contributions from Bliss, J.D., Bolm, K.S., Yang, C., Lipin, B.R., Ludington, S., Miller, R.J., and Slowakiewicz, M., 2014, Potash—A global overview of evaporite-related potash resources, including spatial databases of deposits, occurrences, and permissive tracts: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5090–S, 76 p., and spatial data,

[taken in part from the USGS announcement]
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Tucson 2014 Mineral Lecture Series podcasts now online

Sun, 2015-01-11 13:21
A series of mineral-collecting talks from the 2014 Tucson gem, mineral, and fossil showcase were recorded by BlueCap Productions and released over the past several weeks as free podcasts.

The presentations were originally organized and hosted by the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show, at their show location just off Interstate 10.   The speakers and topics are listed below:

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Morenci copper mine expansion one of big mining stories of 2014

Sun, 2015-01-11 09:20
One of the biggest Arizona mining stories of 2014 was the completion of Freeport's expansion at the giant Morenci mine.  An easy way to appreciate its significance are these excerpts below from pages 10 and 13 of a Freeport presentation last November.

Morenci's production estimate for 2014 makes it the 4th biggest copper mine in the world, and largest in the U.S.

[Figures from Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold]

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

We take for granted that the ground beneath our feet is stable

Fri, 2015-01-09 07:38

Arizona's Ken Fergason, with AMEC Earth & Environmental, is currently President of the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists.  He is interviewed in the new issue of International Innovation.

Ken notes that "People take for granted that infrastructure around them is safe, that the groundwater beneath their homes is clean, that the school their children attend was properly constructed, that the dam supplying water and recreation is not in danger of failure, and that the ground beneath their feet is stable."

Ken has been an advisor to the AZGS on our Earth Fissure mapping program, and is active in the Arizona Land Subsidence Working Group.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Copper prices at 4-year low

Wed, 2015-01-07 06:38
Copper prices fell on world markets to a 4-year low yesterday, with New York March futures settling at $2.7585 a pound.    That's down from $3.38 a year ago.

Arizona produces about 2/3 of the copper used in the U.S. and Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold is the world's largest primary copper producer, so the price has potentially significant impacts to the economy.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

National Geothermal Data System spun off in new non-profit company

Thu, 2015-01-01 21:26

Our US DOE-funded project to deploy and populate the National Geothermal Data System officially ended on December 31, but the results of the work will echo for years to come as the system moves into a new sustainable phase.  NGDS is operational and will remain free to all users.    The project met all its goals, was on time, and on budget.  In fact, we exceeded expectations in many areas.   The four other DOE-funded NGDS related projects all wrapped up earlier this year and NGDS in its entirety was handed over to our coalition to carry forward.       A key to our success is the active participation of the other state geological surveys.    AZGS ran the project on behalf of the Association of American State Geologists.  The close and trusting working relationships we have as a group was instrumental.
The project was highly praised by DOE’s annual external reviews as one of the best run projects (despite being the largest and having the most participants) in their portfolio of 230+ projects, with significant impact and contributions, both technical and economic.  The system is intended to increase geothermal exploration and development across the country by providing free, open source access to any digital data that can help, not just limited to geothermal data per se. 
The project was officially launched by Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz at the White House Datapalooza earlier this year.   We have 65+ sources in all 50 states currently providing access to their data resources via our distributed network.   They are serving over 10 million data records, including information on 3 million oil and gas wells, over 700,000 well logs, up to a million water wells, and tens of thousands of maps, documents, and reports. In Arizona, every oil, gas, geothermal, and CO2 well is online in the NGDS, along with numerous other datasets.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will be streaming our data into the online Global Renewable Energy Atlas.   We are contributing our content models and interchange formats to the National Data Repositories coalitiont to a new online Business Rules Library for data management in the global upstream petroleum industry.    Our model demonstrated that the White House Open Data Access Initiative could be viable and realistic.  We are demonstrating how the national network of state-level data can be applied to other natural resources, to natural hazards, environmental, and land use topics.    
Anyone can set up their own node in the network using free, open source software at the NGDS website.   And anyone can stream the data to their own web portal as IRENA is planning.
We spun off USGIN Foundation, Inc, this past year as an independent non-profit company to commercialize our technology and infrastructure at the national and international level.  NGDS is the biggest client/application/product of USGIN and one that we will continue to showcase as an example of what we can do and provide.   USGIN provides training, software extensions and customization, node set-up, and development of data content models or interchange formats to add new data categories.
We are negotiating grants and contracts now for the start-up company which is helping make Arizona a world center in geoscience cyberinfrastructure.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

A few of the Arizona geology stories of 2014

Thu, 2015-01-01 16:35
A few of the many geologic stories of 2014 that

The eastern Arizona magnitude 5.3 earthquake near the town of Duncan was the biggest in the region in more than 75 years.   There have been hundreds of aftershocks recorded and a couple dozen were large enough to be felt by local residents (right).  AZGS deployed a network of portable seismometers to capture more and better locations.  AZGS's Jeri Young is working on a comprehensive analysis of the results, to better understand the seismic environment and the potential for future quakes.

Another quake this fall, between Sedona and Flagstaff, with a magnitude of 4.7 shook up residents across the area, and was preceded by a number of foreshocks.  Shortly afterward, well-known geologist Paul Lindbergh's discovery of a geologically young and active Oak Creek-Mormon Lake graben system was published, offering a possible explanation for the seismicity in this area.

Monsoon rains this past summer in the Phoenix region produced flooding, debris flows, rock falls, and opened new earth fissures and activated existing ones.  There's been questions in the geotechnical community about how subsidence in some of the valleys may be modifying runoff and areas subject to flooding.   [Left, earth fissure extends under home in Chandler Heights.  Photo by Joe Cook, AZGS

In August, the Arizona [Phoenix] Republic newspaper ran a series of articles on the abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Reservation, left over from the Cold War frenzy of the 1950's and the reclamation efforts to clean up that legacy.    There is additional technical data available on the sites and progress on reclamation at    

That site reports: "In 1989, Navajo AML conducted an on-the-ground survey of abandon mine lands and inventoried 273 coal, 33 copper and over 1000 abandon uranium mines.   Since then, NAML has successfully reclaimed all the inventoried coal sites and received coal certification in 1994. In addition, other non-coal sites were addressed, a total of 913 uranium and 33 copper mines were reclaimed. The abandon mines include both surface mines such as open pit, rimstrips, trenches, and underground mines with features like portals/adits, incline and vertical shafts. In the reclamation of uranium sites, the Health Physics personnel monitors radiation exposure for safety and environmental controls during the reclamation activities."
And lastly in this non-comprehensive list of geo-stories, Arizona was home to national geoscience conferences in 2014 with the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists meeting in Phoenix and the American Institute of Professional Geologists gathering in conjunction with the Arizona Hydrologic Society in Prescott.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Arizona copper mining had ups and downs in 2014

Thu, 2015-01-01 13:00

Copper prices dropped 50 cents a pound during 2014, from $3.38 to $2.88 per pound putting pressure on Arizona mines.  Mineral Park Mine, an open pit copper mine north of Kingman, announced on December 29 that they were shutting down and laying off 380 workers.    The mine's owner, Canadian based Mercator Mineral Park Holdings Ltd., had filed a bankruptcy notice back in August and had been trying to sell the mine.

But other copper projects around the state moved forward.

Resolution Copper released its Mine Plan of Operations publicly in January and reported at the recent SME Arizona conference that it was deemed complete by Tonto National Forest.   Resolution also announced that Shaft #10 reached a depth of 6,943 feet, a US record [right, credit Resolution Copper].    The other big news for Resolution was signing into law the land exchange the company said is essential to moving the project forward.  Resolution's underground copper mine is project to provide a quarter of U.S. copper demand for 40 years.

Hudbay Minerals bought out Augusta Resources, parent company of Rosemont Copper, which is permitting an open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.  Repeated delays in federal permitting pushed Augusta to sell to the larger Hudbay with it's deeper pockets.  Hudbay is reportedly finishing up a drilling program on their private lands to gather additional technical information on the deposit.     Florence Copper Inc., developer of an in situ copper project, was taken over by Taseko Mines Limited.   Real estate developers in the area have been fighting the project and this fall, the Arizona Water Quality Appeals Board, remanded a permit back to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for further review. Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the project an Underground Injection Control (UIC) draft permit.   Florence Copper said this permit "regulates the construction and operation of Florence Copper’s injection wells at the site and is the final regulatory milestone required of Florence Copper to operate its Production Test Facility (PTF) in Florence, Arizona using in-situ copper recovery (ISCR) technology."

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

A white new year's in the Tucson Mountains

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

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:

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

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

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

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

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.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts