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Current Projects


Mapping

STATEMAP Projects

Geologists at the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) are working on a pair of 1:100,000-scale geologic maps through the U.S. National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (STATEMAP) managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Ramshorn quadrangle

Fiscal Year 2022 projects

  • 1:100,000-scale surficial geologic map of the west half of The Ramshorn 30' x 60' quadrangle, Fremont and Park counties
  • 1:100,000-scale bedrock geologic map of the Firehole Canyon 30' x 60' quadrangle, Sweetwater County, Wyoming; Daggett County, Utah; and Moffat County, Colorado

The Ramshorn quadrangle encompasses portions of the northern Wind River Range, northwestern Wind River Basin, and southern Absaroka Range. Generating data about landslides is one goal of the project. The quadrangle is in one of the most landslide-prone regions in the state; U.S. Highway 26/287 runs through the quadrangle and has been damaged by unstable slopes in recent times. The project will also provide detailed mapping of glacial, alluvial, and other surficial deposits that will contribute to understanding the regional Quaternary geologic history.

The Firehole Canyon map will be a compilation of the quadrangle’s bedrock geology. The project requires compiling previously published maps and converting more detailed mapping to a 1:100,000 scale. The map will provide geologic data relevant to the economic resources within the southern Greater Green River Basin.


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.


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.