March 13, 2023

RESTON, Va. — The U.S. Geological Survey will provide nearly $3.4 million to map critical-mineral resources in New Mexico in partnership with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. “Investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will make a significance difference in New Mexico and across the nation as we map valuable geology and critical mineral resources,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “This critical partnership with the State of New Mexico shows how these resources can enable us to work together to strengthen key domestic supply chains by helping secure a reliable and sustainable supply of critical minerals.” The grants come from a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investment in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), which supports \$74 million in new mapping each year to modernize our understanding of the Nation’s fundamental geologic framework and improve knowledge of domestic critical-mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine waste. Overall, the Law invests \\$510.7 million through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the nation’s supply chains and economy.

The funding will support airborne magnetic and radiometric surveys covering more than 10,000 square miles in the mineral resource-rich southwestern corner of New Mexico. The airborne-data collection efforts will parallel companion grants to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources that will support geochemical mapping and mine-waste studies in southwestern New Mexico.

These efforts by the USGS and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources will improve our understanding of critical-mineral resources within the region. These minerals are essential components of everything from household appliances and electronics to electric vehicles and low-carbon energy technologies like batteries, wind turbines and solar. These maps and datasets are also essential in many geoscience fields, informing infrastructure projects and improving our knowledge of groundwater, geothermal and other energy resources and natural hazards.

“The southwest North American porphyry copper province includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northwestern Mexico. It contains multiple types of mineralizing systems and is one of the world’s greatest sources of copper and molybdenum, among other mineral commodities,” said USGS scientist Mark Bultman, who is leading the survey. “The USGS Earth MRI airborne magnetic/radiometric survey will contribute to the geologic understanding of both the mountain ranges and basins and make a major contribution to the understanding of the mineral endowment of the region.”

The geochemical mapping is being done in collaboration with an Earth MRI-funded effort with the Arizona Geological Survey to map the resource potential for copper-molybdenum porphyry deposits of the American southwest. Support for data preservation will preserve and make publicly available historical data on the critical-mineral resources of New Mexico.

“The airborne geophysical imaging that is being collected by the USGS will be of tremendous value to scientists at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, industry and the general public and we eagerly await the survey data”, said Nelia Dunbar, Director of the NMBGMR and New Mexico State Geologist

“Our surface mapping investigations will be strengthened by the insights into the subsurface geology provided by the airborne magnetic surveys and our geochemical analyses of rock samples will be complemented by the aero-radiometric surveys, which will provide a wealth of information about the surface geochemistry”, added Virginia McLemore, Principal Senior Economic Geologist for the NMBGMR. “We look forward to continued cooperation with the USGS on this project.”

The mineral commodities to be studied in New Mexico include:

• Aluminum: used in almost all sectors of the economy

• Arsenic: used in lumber preservatives, pesticides and semi-conductors

• Antimony: used in lead-acid batteries and flame retardants

• Barite: used in hydrocarbon production

• Beryllium: used as an alloying agent in aerospace and defense industries

• Bismuth: used in medical and atomic research

• Cobalt: used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys

• Copper: major industrial metal used in electrical components and building construction

• Fluorspar: used in the manufacture of aluminum, cement, steel, gasoline and fluorine chemicals

• Gallium: used for integrated circuits and optical devices like LEDs

• Germanium: used for fiber optics and night vision applications

• Gold: used in computers, communications, spacecraft and many other applications

• Graphite: used for lubricants, batteries and fuel cells

• Indium: mostly used in LCD screens

• Lithium: main mineral component of batteries and renewable energy

• Molybdenum: used as an alloying agent in steel, cast iron and superalloys to enhance hardenability, strength, toughness, wear and corrosion resistance

• Platinum group metals: used for catalytic agents

• Rare earth elements: primarily used in magnets and catalysts

• Tantalum: used in electronic components, mostly capacitors

• Tellurium: used in steelmaking and solar cells

• Tin: used as protective coatings and alloys for steel

• Tungsten: primarily used to make wear-resistant metals

• Vanadium: primarily used as alloying agent for iron and steel

Earth MRI is a partnership between the USGS and state geological surveys across America to modernize our understanding of the Nation’s fundamental geologic framework and knowledge of mineral resources. The 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has accelerated this new mapping in areas with potential for hosting critical-mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine wastes.