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Earth MRI Funds Critical Minerals Projects in New Mexico

September 30, 2020

A total of $133,000 will fund new research and preserve important data across the Land of Enchantment

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Association of American State Geologists are pleased to announce $133,000 in funding for critical minerals projects in New Mexico. These funds are for FY2020 under the USGS Mineral Resources Program’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI.

These funds include grants to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources for geologic mapping for an area of the Cornudas Mountains along the border with Texas and to preserve and make publicly available critical minerals information. In addition, the USGS will conduct airborne geophysics surveys in the Trans-Pecos region of New Mexico and Texas.

“These new projects in New Mexico represent the next step in our ambitious effort to improve our knowledge of the geologic framework in the United States and to identify areas that may have the potential to contain undiscovered critical mineral resources,” said Jim Reilly, director of the USGS. “The identification and prioritization of prospective areas was done in through our strong partnership with the State Geological Surveys in a series of workshops in Fall 2019.”

“This program will revitalize and update the science and geologic research and data compilation that is needed in many states for the United States to identify new geologic associations,” said John Yellich, director of the Michigan Geological Survey and president of AASG.

 “The Earth MRI effort is an outgrowth of the strong partnership between the AASG members and the USGS,” said Warren Day, Earth MRI lead scientist for the USGS. “The USGS is grateful for the scientific input and support from the State Geological Surveys, resulting in a robust body of information useful for many applications beyond mineral resources.”

The Cornudas Mountains are a region along the Texas border just east of Las Cruces. The area has the potential for critical mineral commodities like beryllium, niobium, rare earth elements and uranium, as well as precious metals like gold and silver.

The geologic mapping efforts, which are managed through the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, will refine our understanding of the geologic framework of areas of interest. In addition to helping identify mineral potential, these maps also support decisions about use of land, water, energy and minerals and to mitigate the impact of geologic hazards on communities.

Airborne geophysical surveys collect a combination of magnetic and radiometric data. Magnetic data can tell us the amount of magnetic minerals, primarily magnetite, in the exposed and deeply buried rocks; whereas the radiometric data indicates the relative amounts of potassium, uranium and thorium in the exposed rocks. This information allows scientists to help identify likely locations of particular rocks that can host minerals of interest, geothermal energy resources, groundwater and potential earthquake hazards in the region.

Earth MRI is a partnership between the USGS, State Geological Surveys and industry to acquire new geologic maps, geophysical survey, and LiDAR data to better understand the fundamental geologic framework of areas across the Nation with potential for hosting critical mineral resources. More information can be found here. To learn more about USGS mineral resource and commodity information, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter.

Image shows a map of the continental United States with Earth MRI projects marked in colored polygons
A map of Earth MRI projects from FY2019 and FY2020 in the contiguous United States. The blue polygons represent geophysics projects, the purple polygons represent lidar projects, the magenta polygons represent geochemistry projects, and the orange polygons represent geologic mapping projects.