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RESTON, Va. — The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will invest more than $3.1 million to map critical mineral resources in Arizona in partnership with the Arizona Geological Survey.  

The funding comes in part from an investment by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative(Earth MRI), which provides $320 million over five years through the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals vital to the Nation’s supply chains, economy and national defense. 

The work will modernize our understanding of the Nation’s fundamental geologic framework and improve knowledge of domestic mineral resources both in the ground and in mine waste, a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that power everything from household appliances and electronics to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines. 

The USGS and the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) will collaborate on an airborne geophysical survey of the Arizona copper porphyry belt in southeast Arizona near the New Mexico border. The Arizona porphyry copper belt includes some of the world’s largest endowments of mineral resources like copper and molybdenum. The new high-resolution data will help define some potentially concealed mineral resources and complement geological and geochemical surveying efforts that the Arizona Geological Survey is undertaking. 

“The Arizona porphyry copper belt 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. “Given that this survey directly abuts the New Mexico porphyry copper belt survey completed earlier in 2023, the two surveys will make a major contribution to understanding the mineral endowment of more than 20,000 square miles of highly prospective mineral terrane in the southwest U.S.” 

“The survey of southeastern Arizona covers a region with a remarkable copper endowment, multiple mining operations, and continued exploration efforts,” said Carson Richardson, Chief of Mineral Resources & Bedrock Geology for the Arizona Geological Survey. “The results will be of significant importance to the general public and the minerals industry as we look for resources needed for the green energy transition, and they will complement both the Arizona Geological Survey’s reconnaissance geochemical survey of the Laramide porphyry belt and carbon sequestration projects.” 

Image shows a road map of southeastern Arizona with the survey area marked in a red polygon
A map of the Arizona Earth MRI Airborne Geophysical Survey.

The critical mineral commodities that are the focus of this survey are:  

  • Aluminum, used in almost all sectors of the economy  

  • Arsenic, used in semi-conductors  

  • Bismuth, used in medical and atomic research  

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

  • Germanium, used for fiber optics and night vision applications  

  • Indium, used in liquid crystal display screens  

  • Lithium, used for rechargeable batteries  

  • Manganese, used in steelmaking and batteries  

  • Rare earth elements group, primarily used in magnets and catalysts  

  • Tellurium, used in solar cells, thermoelectric devices, and as alloying additive  

  • Tin, used as protective coatings and alloys for steel  

  • Tungsten, primarily used to make wear-resistant metals  

  • Zinc, primarily used in metallurgy to produce galvanized steel   

The airborne survey will include the collection of magnetic and radiometric data. These different methods can be used to map rocks at the surface beneath trees and vegetation, and in some cases, several miles underground. Magnetic data, which image the deepest rocks, can be used to identify ancient faults, magma bodies and other geologic features, while radiometric data indicate relative amounts of potassium, uranium and thorium in shallow rocks and soil and can also be used to characterize mine waste.   

“The Earth MRI program has helped catalyze numerous projects for AZGS over the last few years, as well as identify synergies between our mapping and data-preservation program to tackle ambitious, multi-issue projects that benefit a diversity of stakeholders,” Richardson said. “We look forward to the results of the geophysical survey becoming available and continuing our collaborations with the USGS.” 

More information can be found here. To learn more about how the USGS is investing the resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, visit our website. To learn more about USGS mineral-resource and commodity information, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter.  

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