Wyoming Geological Survey - Geo-Notes - Fall Newsletter

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Interpreting the past, providing for the future  -  Fall 2015

Industrial Sands Investigation

The WSGS has initiated a statewide project to investigate the locations, availability, and quality of sands that can be used for the Wyoming oil and gas industry as well as other potential markets.


WSGS geologist Andrea Loveland will serve as principal investigator for this research. Industrial sands are commonly used for hydraulic fracturing and in the manufacture of glass. This research will involve identifying economically viable sand deposits in the state as well as whether the sands from those deposits meet industry quality standards.  


For this study, WSGS geologists will gather samples of sands at various sites throughout the state. Samples will then be analyzed with respect to industry specifications. A final published report will include a summary of the locations sampled, methodology, and analytical results.  This project is slated for completion in June of 2016.


Wayne Sutherland

WSGS Mineral Investigations

WSGS geologists this summer spent a total of 970 hours in the field and walked 375 miles to gather data and samples for their mineral investigations. Photo: Wayne Sutherland, WSGS geologist, conducting research for the iron study.


The Wyoming Legislature has requested and funded several WSGS mineral investigations for resources that could prove economic for the state. These include iron, rare earth elements (REEs), zeolites, and lithium. All studies will result in published reports, which will be available on the agency’s website in July 2016.



The WSGS recently completed its iron investigation. The 91-page report “Iron Resources in Wyoming, Report of Investigations No. 67” is available for $18 via the WSGS website or as a free download. The results of this study show iron-rich rocks occur across Wyoming and recent exploration indicates at least one potentially large and previously unknown deposit in the Rattlesnake Hills-Granite Mountain area. Iron ore also remains in the Sunrise and South Pass areas, where historic mining has occurred.


Rare Earth Elements

The current rare earths study is in follow-up to research completed by the agency in 2013. Wyoming will soon have an active REE industry, with mining operations planned for the Bear Lodge Mountains in Crook County and the potential for additional deposits in the state. REEs are used in numerous high-tech devices. China currently dominates the supply and export of REEs worldwide.


Although REEs are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust, they are rarely concentrated into mineable ore deposits. For this study, WSGS geologists are collecting additional samples from known, potential, and suspected REE host rocks not previously investigated. These samples will be analyzed for REE and other potential economic metals and associated elements. All potential REE locations identified in early WSGS reports, but not investigated in 2012-2013 will be addressed. Further, sites exhibiting higher concentrations of REE will be characterized in their mineralogy, rock types, and geological environments.



WSGS geologists are collecting samples from known, potential, and suspected zeolite host rocks with the goal to analyze those samples for a published report. The published results from this study will also include related maps, and data.


There are more than 50 naturally-occurring zeolite minerals on Earth. Although synthetic zeolites have been successfully made for specific uses, naturally occurring zeolites have the advantage of being far less expensive to produce. Unfortunately, these are limited to specific uses based on each given zeolite mineral’s chemical composition and crystalline properties. Zeolites have a wide variety of uses, including agriculture, water and air purification, cat litter, heavy metal waste control and clean-up, desiccation, catalysis, etc.


Historically, Wyoming had one commercial zeolite quarry in southern Sweetwater County, which is now closed. Mining occurred from the Fort LaClede deposit, which produced small amounts of zeolite.



The WSGS is in the process of reviewing scientific literature as well as acquiring data from a variety of sources on lithium concentrations in Wyoming. The results will be published in a WSGS report.

World demand for lithium is expected to continue to rise in the coming decades. Lithium is used extensively in batteries for cell phones and electric vehicles, ceramics and glass making and high strength to weight metal alloys. Currently, Chile, Australia, China, and Argentina produce most of the world’s lithium from hard rock mines or groundwater brines. WSGS is conducted this initial evaluation of the state’s lithium deposits by analyzing lithium concentrations in selected rock formations, groundwater brines associated with existing oil and gas wells, and groundwater associated with geothermal and playa deposits.