Wyoming Geo-Notes - Winter 2015

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Follow Us: Aggregate mine

Construction aggregate mining operation.

Aggregate, the building blocks of society

By Chamois Andersen

As the saying goes, “money makes the world go ‘round.”  But in a society that requires roads to go places, houses to live in and buildings for work and school, it might actually be construction aggregate that makes the world go ‘round. From crushed stone to sand and gravel, aggregates are used in our everyday lives. Read more...

The WSGS has a new report and website on Wyoming’s Construction Aggregate Resource.

Mineral Investigations

Jacob Carnes, WSGS geologist.
WSGS geologist Jacob Carnes conducts fieldwork on zeolites. Photo by Robert Gregory.

WSGS geologists completed their latest field season conducting mineral investigations on iron, zeolites, rare earth elements, and lithium. These projects are being funded by the Wyoming Legislature, and will conclude in June of 2016 with final reports provided to the Minerals Committee and made available on the WSGS website.

The focus of these investigations is to track, sample, and map the potential for development of these resources in Wyoming.


Geologists Wayne Sutherland and Elizabeth Cola are in the final stages of a report of investigation on Wyoming’s iron resources. This will be the first comprehensive study of iron for the state since a summary report by the U.S. Geological Survey published in 1976. Recent foreign and domestic interest in iron for manufacturing led to some exploration and claim staking in Wyoming in 2012. Information on iron occurrences throughout Wyoming, along with maps and other information on the state’s iron resources, will be included in the report.


Geologist Robert Gregory is conducting the research for the zeolites study, with assistance from geologist Jacob Carnes. They have collected field samples of several different naturally-occurring zeolite minerals. Currently, they are now in the process of analyzing those samples to determine their crystallography, geochemistry, and purity.


Geohydrologist Karl Taboga is the lead on the lithium study, which is an evaluation of the state’s potential resources. Taboga’s team is analyzing lithium concentrations in selected rock formations, groundwater brines associated with existing oil and gas wells, and groundwater associated with geothermal and playa deposits.

Rare Earths

Minerals geologists Wayne Sutherland and Elizabeth Cola are conducting a study on Wyoming’s rare earth elements. This is a continuation from a legislative-funded study, Rare Earth Elements in Wyoming, completed in 2013. The goal of this research is to provide additional geological analysis on potential rare earth element and other mineral deposits and to map, characterize, and catalog these deposits and their occurrences found throughout Wyoming.

Reports for rare earths, zeolites, and lithium will be published in 2016. The report of investigation for iron will be available this June.

Energy Assessments

Chris Carroll

Coal geologist Chris Carroll and oil and gas geologist Ranie Lynds are conducting research on the Fort Union Formation in the eastern Greater Green River Basin. This basin holds potential coal and oil and gas reserves. Coal companies actively mine the Fort Union coals near Rock Springs, and the U.S. Department of Energy coal gasification pilot studies have been conducted in this area. In addition, there are thousands of existing gas wells within the basin. More than 16,000 wells are proposed to be drilled over the next few years, some of which are targeting the Fort Union Formation.

Carroll and Lynds are gathering data and creating a stratigraphic model of the Fort Union Formation to gain a better understanding of the coal, sandstone, and shale clastic setting. This study will consider existing oil and gas exploration targets within the Paleocene-age strata and suggest new ideas for future exploration. This project is intended as original research to gain knowledge of the stratigraphic architecture for the potential for future coal, and oil, and gas resource development.

Photo: Coal geologist Chris Carroll is knee deep in coal spoils collecting a sample at the Black Butte Coal Mine, Sweetwater County, Wyo.

Energy Reports Coming!

Barrel of oil.

WSGS is soon to publish its annual Summary Report series on Wyoming’s energy resources. From production to new developments, these reports are a snapshot in time on energy commodities produced in the state and for the nation’s consumption.

Four-pager summary reports also being developed on Wyoming’s groundwater resources and geologic hazards. These reports will be posted on the WSGS website in late February.

Water and Hazards

Water Atlas

Geohydrologist Karl Taboga is beginning work on the development of a groundwater atlas for Wyoming. The internet-map server will include descriptions of the locations, extent, and the geologic and hydrologic characteristics of aquifers in the state. This project will also include a Wyoming map of groundwater recharge.

Geologic Hazards

Hazards geologist Martin Larsen is currently developing a public information report on geologic hazards in Wyoming. Geologic hazards vary from sudden events – earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions – to slow processes such as windblown deposits and expansive soils. This report will include earthquake basics, a general description of the geologic hazards found in Wyoming, the locations and magnitude of significant earthquakes that have occurred across the state and in Yellowstone, as well as geologic hazard maps of landslides, windblown deposits, and expansive soils.

Wyo Strat on the Web

Blue Rim, Green River Basin
Stratified sediments of the Eocene age lower Bridger Formation. This outcrop is at Blue Rim, in the northeastern portion of the Green River Basin. Photo by Jacob Carnes.

(Click here for statewide map of color stratigraphy columns according to Wyoming uplifts and basins.)

Stratigraphy is a branch of geology that studies rock layers (strata) and rock layering (stratification). It is used to understand the geometric relationship between different rock layers and to interpret the depositional history represented by those layers. This knowledge is an important exploration tool for the energy and minerals industry and for water resource management.

Some history…Nicholas Steno (1638-1686) was a Danish pioneer of geology and is considered to be the father of stratigraphy. Steno’s observations of rock layers suggested geology is not totally chaotic. Rock layers preserve a chronological record of Earth’s history and past life. He developed three principles of stratigraphy, known as Steno’s Laws:

  • Law of Original Horizontality, beds of sediment deposited in water form as horizontal layers due to gravity.
  • Law of Superposition, oldest layers lie at the bottom.
  • Law of Lateral Continuity, horizontal strata extend laterally.

WSGS Top Web Pages!

Home Page

The WSGS website has been designed as a clearing-house of information on Wyoming’s energy and mineral resources with a host of information on the state’s geology. The agency routinely updates information, including energy and mineral production numbers, as they become available.

The website contains searchable data and maps as well as the increasingly popular free downloadable (pdf) reports and map products. According to Google Analytics, the Wyoming Oil and Gas map was the most popular WSGS product in 2014 with more than 1,600 downloads. The Geologic Map of Wyoming was also in high demand with nearly 1,500 pdf downloads.

The top pages of the WSGS website include Gemstones, Wyoming Jade, GIS data, Stratigraphy index, and the web pages on Diamonds and Coal.

WSGS Newsletter - Winter 2015


Wyoming Geo-Notes