GEOLOGIC MAPPING

 

Geologic maps are two-dimensional representations of a vast amount of three-dimensional geologic information. They convey the age, composition, and spatial relationships among rocks units at and near the Earth’s surface. This information is the foundation for addressing both applied and basic research questions in the Earth Sciences. For example, mapping by NBMG geologists is used to understand the origin and distribution of mineral deposits and energy resources around the state of Nevada and also documents the geologic history of earthquakes, floods, and landslides critical for characterizing and planning for natural hazards. This same mapping can also be used to investigate academic research questions about how the Earth’s crust changes through time, including the multiple tectonic events that have shaped our landscapes. The detailed geologic maps published by NBMG are commonly used for a variety of applications and over a period spanning decades. As shown in a recent cost-benefit analysis, every dollar allocated to NBMG for geologic mapping returns >50 times that amount in benefits to the state1. The long-range geologic mapping plan of the NBMG has two major goals that benefit the state directly:

• To facilitate the growth of Nevada’s urban centers and statewide infrastructure by providing information on geological hazards, resources, and environmental protection and,

• To assist in the environmentally responsible, economic development of mineral and energy resources, which also facilitates economic diversification.

Current geologic mapping priorities focus on rapidly expanding urban areas, including Las Vegas and Reno–Carson City, mineral resources in northeastern Nevada, and geothermal resources throughout the state.

View of downtown Las Vegas and The Strip from the recent mapping area of the Sloan quadrangle.

Las Vegas Urban Area

NBMG mapping in and around Las Vegas is focused on filling gaps in existing map coverage with the long-term goal of creating a new geologic map of Clark County. These maps document geologic information relevant to the area’s evolving land use, including the identification of flood-prone regions, the distribution of naturally occurring asbestos, and the location of earthquake faults. An example of a recent application of geologic
maps in the Las Vegas area is the design of a proposed natural gas pipeline south of Henderson. The pipeline route crosses several faults, and recently completed NBMG geologic maps were used to determine the pipeline alignment and fault-crossing design.
View of downtown Reno and Peavine Mountain.

Reno–Carson City Urban Area

Geologic mapping by NBMG in the Reno–Carson City area is critical for the identification and characterization of earthquake faults and landslides. Recently published NBMG geologic maps have also been essential for recent development of several geothermal power plants.
Geologic mapping in northeast NV.

Resource-Rich Northeastern Nevada

Natural resource production, especially gold but also silver, copper, lithium, and geothermal energy, is a critical part of the Nevada economy. Nevada produced 5.64 million ounces of gold valued at $7.1 billion in 2017, leading the nation in gold production. Much of the production and exploration for mineral resources occurs in northeastern Nevada. Geologic mapping by NBMG geologists has been a primary factor in defining the geologic setting and origin of Nevada’s mineral deposits and has contributed significantly to economic development in northeastern Nevada and elsewhere.

1Bhagwat, S.B., 2014, The Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology: current and future benefits to the university, the state, and the region: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 38, 64 p.