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Current Projects


Mapping

STATEMAP Projects

Geologists at the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) are working on three new geologic maps this year through the U.S. National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (or STATEMAP) managed by the U.S. Geological Survey. The final maps will be:

  • 1:100,000-scale surficial geologic map of east half of the Jackson Lake 30' x 60' quadrangle, Teton, Fremont, and Park counties
  • 1:24,000-scale bedrock geologic map of Oil Mountain 7.5' quadrangle, Natrona County
  • 1:24,000-scale bedrock geologic map of Phantom Lake 7.5' quadrangle, Carbon County

The east half of Jackson Lake quadrangle encompasses the southwestern Absaroka Range, northern Gros Ventre Range, and easternmost Jackson Hole, and is crossed by the Gros Ventre and Buffalo Fork rivers. The project complements WSGS surficial geologic mapping of the west half of the quadrangle from 2020. This work will generate data related to landslides, Quaternary faults, and glacial geology, and will contribute to the understanding of the region’s Quaternary geologic history and active geologic hazards.

The Oil Mountain quadrangle is about 15 miles west of Casper and at the southeastern margin of the Wind River Basin. This project builds upon recent WSGS studies of subsurface geology in the nearby Powder River Basin as well as nearby mapping efforts in the Wind River Basin and recent work on similar stratigraphy in the Greater Green River Basin. The goal is to better characterize the mineral and energy resources of the Casper arch and southeastern Wind River Basin.

The Phantom Lake quadrangle is on the western flank of the Medicine Bow Mountains, about 17 miles southeast of Saratoga. This project continues the WSGS’s larger effort to map the mining districts in the Medicine Bow Mountains, and will focus on documenting mineralization related to regional structure, lithology, and petrology trends. Extensive geochronology and geochemical analysis of units within the map area will assist in identifying mineralization and potential deposits of critical minerals in the map area, and better establish age relationships between the Precambrian units. The final product will compile, refine, and contribute to previous mapping efforts in the area and will be published as a map series.

The WSGS has produced more than 100 maps during the more than 30 years it has been participating in the STATEMAP program.


Mapping in the Laramie Mountains

Patty Webber

The WSGS is working on multiple integrated mapping projects in the Laramie Range. One of these projects is a study of the central part of the Laramie Range funded by the USGS’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) program. The emphasis of the project is mapping the King Mountain and Ragged Top Mountain 7.5' quadrangles in Albany and Laramie counties. These quadrangles are part of the larger central Laramie Range study area.

The Laramie Range contains known but poorly understood rare earth element-enriched alkalic plutons, two anorthosite complexes, a greenstone belt, and a large mafic dike swarm. The anorthosite complexes cumulatively have potential for base- and precious-metal deposits (Cu, Ni, Au, Ag) as well as critical mineral resources (Ti, V, W, Cr, and REEs). Metavolcanic rocks of the Elmers Rock Greenstone Belt are a potential source of Ni, Cr, Mo, and PGEs. Additionally, several known occurrences of graphite fall within the focus area, including the Rabbit Creek graphitic schist deposit in Platte County near the northernmost part of the study area.

This two-year project will focus primarily on geologic mapping and geochemical analyses, culminating in the publication of two maps and a geodatabase of geochemical results in summer 2022. This is also a collaborative project with several members of the University of Wyoming’s Department of Geology and Geophysics: Dr. B. Ronald Frost, emeritus professor, who mapped much of the Laramie Range over the past several decades; and Dr. Simone Runyon, assistant professor and economic geologist.


New Interactive Map to Depict State’s Geothermal Data

Geothermal energy potential has become a topic of increasing interest in geology and natural resources. In an effort to aid various groups in their acquisition and utilization of geothermal data, the WSGS is creating an interactive map of Wyoming geothermal data. The map will feature a compilation of subsets of national and/or regional data specific to Wyoming with the most requested and complete information available for browsing and downloading.

Geothermal groundwater systems are typically identified by the presence of anomalously warm springs or by well borehole temperatures. The featured layers in the Wyoming Geothermal Map will highlight inventories of geothermal hot springs and wells, isolated geothermal systems, and borehole bottom temperatures. Additionally modeled estimates of geothermal potential and groundwater temperatures are included. Geologic, temperature, and reference layers will be included.


Digital Depth to Precambrian Basement Map of Wyoming

The WSGS is creating a basement map that will provide valuable information about the depth to Precambrian geology of Wyoming. The map will serve as the framework for related WSGS projects focused on constraining Precambrian lithology and geochronologic relationships, as well as provide key data to identify potential areas of critical mineral deposits.

Critical minerals are important to U.S. national security and economy. Wyoming hosts significant occurrences of many of these minerals, in part due to the wide variety of geologic environments present throughout the state. Many critical minerals in Wyoming are either found in, or originate from, Precambrian igneous and metamorphic basement rocks. These rocks are exposed at the surface in many of the basement-cored mountain ranges in the state, but can be buried below Phanerozoic strata in the nearby basins.

The WSGS is compiling and preserving depth-to-basement and structure data from seismic interpretations, cross sections, and well logs. The data will be incorporated into a Geologic Map Schema (GeMS)-compliant geodatabase and utilized to generate a digital, publicly available depth to the Precambrian basement map.

The project is partially funded by the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program.


Minerals

Pair of Projects Focus on Heavy-Mineral Sands

Heavy-mineral

Heavy-mineral sand placer deposits, sometimes called “black sands,” are the world’s primary source for titanium and zirconium, as well as a potential source for hafnium, niobium, vanadium, and the rare earth elements. These elements are considered by the USGS to be “critical minerals,” which are essential to the economic and national security of the United States.

A “heavy mineral” is an accessory detrital mineral with high density relative to quartz and feldspar, the two most common minerals in sands and sandstones. Because of their high density, heavy minerals are subject to mechanical sorting during transport in rivers and along shorelines. A placer deposit can form if the sorting process produces a significant accumulation of concentrated heavy minerals. In Wyoming, such deposits are found as paleoplacers (fossil placers) in various rock formations, including the Cambrian Flathead Sandstone, Cretaceous Mesaverde Group, and in some Precambrian and Eocene rocks.

In an effort to better characterize the chemistry and mineralogy of these deposits, the WSGS is working on two projects of different scope and focus. The goal of the first project is to thoroughly sample and analyze the geochemistry and mineralogy of several heavy-mineral sandstones in the Upper Cretaceous Rock Springs Formation, of the Mesaverde Group, in Sweetwater County. The second project is broader in scope, involving heavy-mineral sand deposits of all ages throughout Wyoming. For this statewide project, the main goal is to conduct preliminary sampling and analysis of the heavy-mineral sand deposits for which data are scarce or nonexistent, as well as to augment older datasets with modern analytical methods, with a focus on the rare earth elements.

Heavy-mineral sandstone in the Upper Cretaceous Rock Springs Formation, Richards Gap, Wyoming (OFR 2021-6) is available.

Helium

Helium Resources in Wyoming

The United States is the largest producer of helium, and is a net exporter. Wyoming has the largest helium reserves in the country. A new project underway at the WSGS focuses on Wyoming’s helium resources. Specifically, geoscientists will digitize existing data on helium resources to make it more accessible and incorporate updated information.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 148 billion cubic feet of recoverable helium from known natural gas reservoirs in the Rocky Mountain region, most of which is in Wyoming. Currently, helium is recovered from deep wells in association with natural gas and carbon dioxide at the Labarge-Shute Creek treating facility in Lincoln County.