State Geological Survey Develops Tool To Map Wyoming's Mineral Resources

Apr 25, 2019

Sherman Granite with elevated rare earth elements in an altered zone near Albany, Wyoming.
Credit Wyoming State Geological Survey

The Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) has developed a new tool to better understand where particular minerals exist across the state. The tool is an algorithm that processes data from rock and sediment samples taken in the latter half of the 20th century.

WSGS geologist Jesse Pisel created the tool and said the intention behind it was to be able to see where scientists should focus their attention when looking for particular minerals and elements.

"We really wanted to figure out how do we best spend our time and really focus on certain areas that might have the highest potential for critical and strategic minerals," Pisel said.

Critical and strategic minerals include a group of elements called rare earth elements. Those are things like neodymium and lanthanum, WSGS director Erin Campbell said, and these elements are used to make things like batteries and cell phone and computer parts.

There is no domestic source of rare earth elements in the U.S. and discovering where they are within Wyoming could benefit the state economically.

"Rare earth elements [are] a great opportunity for the state to expand its mining. And this tool allows us to quickly identify areas where the geologic survey can focus their efforts in terms of identifying new rare earth element deposits," Campbell said.

The Bear Lodge deposit in northeastern Wyoming had previously been identified to have potential rare earth elements.

Campbell said the next steps include re-analyzing and re-sampling areas that could have rare earth elements.