CRITICAL MINERALSSearching for Critical Minerals at the Colorado-Wyoming Border

Published 8 November 2022

The U.S. Geological Survey announced that, with substantial funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, it will invest about $2.8 million to collect a large swath of geophysical data focusing on critical-mineral resources along the Colorado-Wyoming border.

Understanding rock formations that may contain mineral resources is a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that are essential to powering everything from household appliances and electronics to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines.   

The surveys will focus on the Sierra Madre-Elkhorn Mountains and the Medicine Bow Mountains and will complement an additional USGS airborne geophysical survey of the Medicine Bow Mountains. The area has seen mineral exploration in the past, and there are several known mineral systems that are of high interest for their critical-mineral potential. This region was chosen in collaboration with the state geological surveys due to several known areas of mineral interest that are significantly undermapped.  

The funding was announced while Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tanya Trujillo was in Colorado for the 2022 Pecora Conference to highlight the U.S. Geological Survey’s work through 50 years of Landsat earth observations and current and future innovations in science and technology.  

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes historic investments through the earth mapping resources initiative to secure our supply of critical minerals that power household appliances, clean energy technology and more,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “Through these investments, the U.S. Geological Survey is making critical scientific advancements in data mapping and preservation that will equip future generations.” 

“I’m looking forward to this project because the magnetic data collected on this airborne survey improve our understanding of the region’s geologic history and its potential for critical minerals,” said USGS scientist Ben Drenth, the USGS lead researcher on this survey. “In addition, the radiometric data collected simultaneously will directly aid geologic mapping of surface soil types, which, in turn, will help increase our understanding of shallow water resources.”  

“We are very pleased to continue our strong working relationship with our partners at the USGS,” said Matt Morgan, Colorado State Geologist and Director of the Colorado Geological Survey. “Having this state-of-the-art geophysical data available before our geologists begin to map the region will provide us an incredible glimpse into the subsurface geology and help us better understand the mineral systems at depth.”