Monday, May 30, 2011

Critical Minerals Policy Act calls for State Geological Survey resource assessments

The bipartisan Critical Minerals Policy Act (S-1113) was introduced in the Senate last week. The legislation proposes mineral-specific actions for Cobalt, Helium, Lead, Lithium, Low-Btu gas, Phosphate, Potash, Rare earth elements, and Thorium. [right, the dynamics of two decades of computer chip technology development and its mineral and element impacts. In the 1980s, computer chips were made with a palette of twelve minerals or their elemental components. A decade later, 16 elements were employed. Today, as many as 60 different minerals (or their constituent elements) may be used in fabricating the high-speed, high-capacity integrated circuits that are crucial to this technology. Credit, "Minerals, Critical Minerals, and the U.S. Economy," National Academies Press, 2008, used with permission from Intel Corporation.]

Among the provisions is the requirement that:

Not later than 4 years after the date of enactment of this Act, in consultation with applicable State (including geological surveys), local, academic, industry, and other entities, the Secretary [of Interior] shall complete a comprehensive national assessment of each critical mineral that—

(1) identifies and quantifies known critical mineral resources, using all available public and private information and datasets, including exploration histories;
(2) estimates the cost of production of the critical mineral resources identified and quantified under this section, using all available public and private information and datasets, including exploration histories;
(3) provides a quantitative and qualitative assessment of undiscovered critical mineral resources throughout the United States, including probability estimates of tonnage and grade, using all available public and private information and datasets, including exploration histories; and
(4) pays particular attention to the identification and quantification of critical mineral resources on Federal land that is open to location and entry for exploration, development, and other uses.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Utah Survey's publications page on Facebook

Kudos to the Utah Geological Survey for their new Facebook publications page.

Massive support for Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology budget battle

In response to a proposed 47% cut to its $2.1 million budget, the Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology is making its case to university and state decision-makers, its stakeholders, and the Nevada citizenry. The NBMG web page offers a factsheet and a massive report on the impacts of the cut on the Bureau and the state of Nevada. The report extensively describes the breadth of NBMG work but has an astonishing 200+ pages of letters and messages from industry, professional organizations, government agencies, and academics from around the world, expressing their concerns of the potential harm the cuts will cause.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Susceptibility to deep-seated landslides in California

The California Geological Survey released Map Sheet 58, "Susceptibility to deep-seated landslides in California."

This map shows the relative likelihood of deep landsliding based on regional estimates of rock strength and steepness of slopes. On the most basic level, weak rocks and steep slopes are more likely to generate landslides. The map uses detailed information on the location of past landslides, the location and relative strength of rock units, and steepness of slope to estimate susceptibility to deep-seated landsliding. The result shows the distribution of one very important component of landslide hazard. It is intended to provide infrastructure owners, emergency planners and the public with a general overview of where landslides are more likely. The map does not include information on landslide triggering events, such as rainstorms or earthquake shaking, nor does it address susceptibility to shallow landslides such as debris flows. This map is not appropriate for evaluation of landslide potential at any specific site.

Taken from the CGS news release.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happy birthday, AASG!

Today, May 12, is AASG Founders Day. AASG is 103 years old. The founding meeting was held May 12, 1908, in Washington, D.C. in the conference room of George Otis Smith, fourth director of the USGS. The USGS was the host and arranged the meeting space and train transportation expenses to and from the meeting for the State Geologists who attended. The first elected officers were: Chairman: Henry B. Kummel (New Jersey), Secretary: H. Foster Bain (Illinois), and Executive Committeeman: Joseph H. Pratt (North Carolina). The minutes from the founding meeting have been preserved in the AASG online archive at

The following list gives the names of the members present at the inaugural meeting, May 12, 1908, in Washington, D.C.:

Eugene A. Smith, Alabama

Albert H. Purdue, Arkansas

Elias H. Sellards, Florida

Samuel W. McCallie, Georgia

H. Foster Bain, Illinois

Samuel Calvin, Iowa

Erasmus Haworth, Kansas

Gilbert D. Harris, Louisiana

William B. Clark, Maryland

Alfred C. Lane, Michigan

Albert F. Crider, Mississippi

Henry A. Buehler, Missouri

Erwin H. Barbour, Nebraska

Henry B. Kummel, New Jersey

John H. Clarke, New York

Joseph H. Pratt, North Carolina

Arthur G. Leonard, North Dakota

John A. Bownocker, Ohio

Richard H. Hice, Pennsylvania

Earle Sloan, South Carolina

George H. Perkins, Vermont

Israel C. White*, West Virginia

William O. Hotchkiss, Wisconsin

The first order of business after organizational matters were dealt with was a resolution to support the USGS for topographic mapping. This launched a 75 year odyssey and partnership between the USGS and state geological surveys and AASG to map the U.S. at a useful scale. This was one of the great accomplishments of the 20th Century. The 1:24,000 topographic maps became the base for modern geologic mapping which took off in a big way as topographic coverage spread around the country. And now 103 years after topographic mapping was launched and 19 years after National Geologic Mapping Act was passed, a new odyssey and partnership for geologic mapping is being done in 46 states and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of geologic maps have been completed.

[contributed by AASG President Jim Cobb of Kentucky]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maine earthquakes - press release

Press release from the Maine Geological Survey:

Bucksport-Searsport Region Feels Small Earthquake Swarm

AUGUSTA, Maine -- A series of small earthquakes has been affecting the Bucksport-Searsport area in the past few days, beginning with events on April 30, according to Maine Geological Survey officials.

As many as 30 very small events -- called a swarm -- have occurred, all measuring less than 2 on the Richter magnitude scale, said Dr. Robert Marvinney, Maine state geologist and director of the Maine Geological Survey, under the Maine Department of Conservation [right, recent quakes in New England. Credit, Weston Observatory, Boston College].

"This swarm may continue for several days, but there is no need for alarm," Marvinney said. "This type of swarm has occurred before in Maine. While local residents may feel these earthquakes, because they occur only a few miles below the surface, they are well below the magnitude 5 threshold at which damage might occur."

The occurrence of this swarm cannot be taken as an indicator that a larger, potentially damaging earthquake will occur, he said.

"Earthquakes are not something that Mainers think about a lot," Rob McAleer, Maine Emergency Management Agency director, said. "This earthquake swarm reminds us that we need to understand Maine earthquakes as part of preparing for all the hazards we face here."

The Maine Geological Survey, Maine Emergency Management Agency and the New England Seismic Network will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary, the officials said.

The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale measuring the amount of energy released by an earthquake. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale, for example, is 10 times stronger than one that measures 4.0.

Seismologists at the New England Seismic Network, run by the Weston Observatory at Boston College, have located eight of the larger events. The locations determined for these earthquakes are approximate only, Marvinney said.

A number have taken place in an area between Bucksport, Belfast and Searsport.

Typically, Maine experiences several earthquake events of magnitude 2 or less each year, Marvinney said.

"These occur in response to the movement of large, rock plates that make up the earth’s crust, even though Maine is not near a plate boundary, where most of the large events occur, such as California and Japan," Marvinney said. "The crust in Maine is still adjusting to the loss of thick ice at the end of the last ice age, and this may be a cause for some earthquakes."

Marvinney noted that similar swarms have occurred in the past:

  • 2006 in the Bar Harbor area -- About three dozen earthquakes occurred, including one magnitude 4.2 event and two magnitude 3 events. These were much larger events than in the current swarm, and they caused minor rock-fall damage.
  • 1967 in the Augusta area – At least 12 located events occurred, but probably many smaller events were not detected. The largest event in that sequence was 3.9.

Additional information on these earthquakes can be found at the New England Real-Time Earthquake Monitor (from Weston Observatory of Boston College).

Anyone feeling earthquakes can report the occurrence to the Maine Geological Survey at

McAleer said that MEMA recommends residents take the following preparedness steps for earthquakes:

  • Check for hazards in the home;
  • Identify safe places indoors and outdoors;
  • Educate yourself and family members;
  • Have disaster supplies on hand;
  • Develop an emergency communication plan.

More information on earthquake preparedness is available at Maine Prepares

The direct link to the earthquake information article, "Earthquakes: What You Should Know"

A large-format "Earthquake Awareness" brochure also is available from MEMA by calling 1-800-452-8735 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-452-8735 end_of_the_skype_highlighting to request a copy.

Link to more information about the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

Last updated on May 3, 2011

Illinois' Dick Berg to receive GSA Distinguished Service Award

Richard "Dick" Berg, Acting Chief Scientist of the Illinois State Geological Survey is begin given the Geological Society of America's Distinguished Service Award at the annual meeting in Minneapolis this October.

State Geologists elected Fellows of GSA

State Geologists Vicki McConnell (Oregon), Harvey Thorleifson (Minnesota), and John Steinmetz (Indiana), along with former State Geologist David Wunsch (New Hampshire) have been elected Fellows of the Geological Society of America.

Here's Harvey with U.S. Senator Al Franken and a shot of David when he was a Congressional Fellow.

[updated 5-11-11, 13:45]

Monday, May 09, 2011

Maine micro-earthquake swarm due to glacial rebound

Dozens of micro-earthquakes (magnitudes less than 2.0) are due to glacial rebound, according to Maine State Geologist Robert Marvinney, in a story on today. [right, seismogram of Maine quakes from April 29 through May 5, 2011. Credit, Maine Geological Survey]

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Maine State Geologist on "How the States Got Their Shapes"

Bob Marvinney, State Geologist of Maine, was featured on the premier episode ("The River Runs Through It") of the television documentary series, "How the States Got Their Shapes," broadcast on the History Channel on May 3.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sen. Wyden speaks on importance of geologic mapping for geothermal energy

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke about the importance of geologic mapping today as keynote speaker at the Geothermal Energy Association's Geothermal Energy Technology and International Development Forum in Washington, DC. The senator talked about his commitment to geothermal energy and laid out 4 priorities:

1. remove hurdles to development, especially on federal lands
2. foster collaboration between DOE and Interior, for more geologic mapping and exploration. He urged more of the kind of work for geothermal that the USGS used to do for other natural resources
3. offer the same tax credits for geothermal as we do for solar
4. noting that the states have done the heavy lifting in establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards, the U.S. should pursue national standards

He spoke eloquently and knowledgeably about the importance of geologic mapping. He is second in seniority on the Senate Energy Committee, chairs the Sub-Comm on Trade, and is second in seniority on Senate Energy.
We had a table exhibit for the AASG State Geotherrmal Data project at the Forum and got tremendous response to the live demo we ran with data services coming from many of your surveys.

Below, video of Sen. Wyden in 2009 hearing on renewable energy development on federal lands.