Mineral and Energy Resources Assessment Nellis Air Force Ranges

Spring 1994

The Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology has received a contract for $898,000 from Mariah Associates, Inc. of Laramie, Wyoming to conduct a mineral assessment of the Nellis Air Force Ranges. The Nellis Ranges, which have been closed to public access since 1942 when the land was withdrawn for use as an Army Air Force bombing and testing range, cover about 3 million acres of land in Nye, Lincoln, and Clark Counties, southern Nevada.

The objective of this work effort is to provide a mineral and energy survey and assessment of all mineable minerals and energy resources located on property managed by the U.S. Air Force under provisions of the Military Lands Withdrawal Act of 1986. The survey analysis will provide decision makers with information on the mineral potential and consequences of the continued Nellis Ranges land withdrawal in Nevada. The mineral assessment is part of a larger contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force through the Army Corps of Engineers to Mariah Associates, Inc. Data gathered during the study will be used in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement and Land Withdrawal renewal package required by various Federal acts governing extension and renewal of public lands withdrawn for military purposes.

During the three-year assessment, project scientists will study satellite imagery of Nellis for evidence of alteration and mineralization, collect rock and stream sediment samples for geochemical analysis, and examine and sample accessible mines and prospects throughout the area. A final report will be submitted that will include descriptions of the geology and mineral resources of the area and will outline areas of mineral potential. The mineral assessment project will be managed by NBMG but work will be carried out by resource evaluation specialists from both NBMG and the Mackay School of Mines.

Joe Tingley, Project Manager, is responsible for planning and organization and will be involved in the geochemical sampling and mine examination-evaluation phases of the work. Interpretation of satellite imagery to outline structural lineations and areas of rock alteration will be done by Tom Lugaski, Remote Sensing Specialist with the Mackay School of Mines. NBMG Research Geologist D.D. La Pointe is responsible for literature review and for assembly of maps and reference materials needed for the project. She will monitor data assembled by the field crews and will play a major role in preparation of the final report. NBMG Research Geologists Larry Garside, Hal Bonham, and Chris Henry, along with Steve Weiss and Kathy Conners of the Mackay School of Mines, will be conducting a geochemical sampling and characterization program to determine background geochemical properties of the rock units within the Nellis Ranges. Petrographic studies for the characterization program will be done by NBMG Research Mineralogist Li Hsu. Studies of the industrial mineral potential will be carried out by Steve Castor, NBMG Industrial Minerals Geologist, and Larry Garside will be responsible for assessment of oil, gas, and geothermal potential within the project area. Samples will be sent to selected commercial laboratories for specialized analyses, but NBMG's geochemical laboratory staff, directed by Paul Lechler and Mario Desilets, will be handling all sample preparation and doing some of the analyses. NBMG's cartography and GIS departments will both play important roles in producing maps and illustrations for this project.

This mineral assessment project is not likely to lead directly to discovery of new ore deposits within the Nellis Ranges and, if any good prospects are defined, it is not likely that the lands will become available for mineral entry in the foreseeable future. Our work, however, will provide insight on a large area of Nevada that has been unknown territory for over half a century. Information gained will add to our knowledge of mineral occurrences in southern Nevada and will be invaluable to future mineral assessment projects on surrounding areas of the state that are available for mineral development.

---Joseph V. Tingley, Economic Geologist