Low-Level Airplane Flights to Image Geology in Southeastern Arizona

A comprehensive survey aims to expand knowledge of Arizona’s copper porphyry belt

In a groundbreaking endeavor, low-level airplane flights are set to take place over a vast region in southeastern Arizona. The purpose of these flights is to capture high-resolution images of the geology using airborne geophysical technology. This ambitious survey, spanning over 10,880 square miles, aims to enhance our understanding of the Arizona copper porphyry belt, which is renowned for its substantial mineral resources. The data collected will provide crucial insights into potential concealed mineral resources, water resources, infrastructure planning, and natural risks. Let’s explore the details of this unique project and its significance in furthering our knowledge of the Earth’s geological composition.

Unveiling the Arizona Copper Porphyry Belt

The Arizona copper porphyry belt, located in southeast Arizona near the New Mexico border, boasts some of the world’s largest deposits of copper and molybdenum. The upcoming survey aims to expand our fundamental knowledge of the geology underlying this mineral-rich region. By utilizing high-resolution imaging technology, researchers hope to reveal previously concealed mineral resources. This comprehensive effort will complement ongoing geological and geochemical surveying initiatives conducted by the Arizona Geological Survey.

Advancing Geophysical Data Collection

To achieve their goals, the survey team plans to process the collected geophysical data and create detailed three-dimensional representations of the bedrock composition and structure. These representations will penetrate depths of over 3,280 feet below the surface, providing invaluable insights into the region’s geological makeup. This data will not only aid in identifying potential mineral resources but also contribute to our understanding of critical factors such as water resources, groundwater pathways, infrastructure planning, and the risks associated with naturally occurring radon.

Flight Operations and Technology

The survey will be conducted using a fixed-wing single-engine Cessna TU206G aircraft, specially equipped with an elongated “stinger” mounted beneath the cabin. The stinger houses instruments that measure variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and natural low-level gamma energy emitted by different rock types. The aircraft will fly along pre-planned flight paths, maintaining a low altitude of around 400 feet above the surface. To ensure safety, the ground clearance will increase to 1,000 feet over populated areas, adhering to Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Collaboration and Data Accessibility

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has contracted NV5 GeoSpatial, Inc. in partnership with EDCON-PRJ, Inc. to collect the geophysical data. The scientific instruments on board the aircraft are entirely passive, emitting no harmful emissions to the environment or living organisms. No photography or video data will be collected during the flights, ensuring privacy and compliance with regulations. Once the survey is complete, the collected data will be made freely available to the public, facilitating further research and analysis.

Earth Mapping Resources Initiative

The Arizona Earth MRI Airborne Geophysical Survey is part of a broader effort known as the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative. This initiative, led by the USGS, the Arizona Geological Survey, and numerous other partners, aims to modernize our understanding of the nation’s geologic framework and mineral resources. Alongside airborne geophysical surveys, the initiative includes geochemical reconnaissance surveys, topographic mapping using LiDAR technology, hyperspectral surveys, and geologic mapping projects. By leveraging these advanced techniques, scientists hope to gain comprehensive insights into the Earth’s composition and uncover valuable resources.

The Arizona Earth MRI Airborne Geophysical Survey represents a significant step forward in our understanding of the geology of the Arizona copper porphyry belt. Through the use of cutting-edge technology and comprehensive data collection, researchers aim to uncover concealed mineral resources, refine our knowledge of critical factors such as water resources and infrastructure planning, and assess potential risks. This survey, part of the broader Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, exemplifies the collaborative efforts of various organizations to advance our understanding of the Earth’s geologic framework and mineral resources. As the survey progresses and the data becomes available to the public, it holds the promise of unlocking new insights and opportunities for scientific exploration and resource management.

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