MBMG People and Projects in the News!!

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LIDAR turns up new Bitterroot fault line

geologist Jeff Lonn points to a Geologist Jeff Lonn points to a "scarp" where an earthquake separated land along the lower east face of the Bitterroots.

A mapping method used to look at floodplains in the Bitterroot Valley turned up something unexpected: a new fault line that just might cross under the Lake Como Dam.

Jeff Lonn, a geologist with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology in Butte, said Ravalli County was using Light Detection and Ranging — or LIDAR — equipment as part of a floodplain study. LIDAR uses laser to map the ground, showing what the land is like devoid of homes, grasses and trees.

Ravalli Republic

EVE BYRON eve.byron@ravallirepublic.comp • Sep 18, 2017

Montana geology creates unusual earthquake risk that isn't fully understood

JAYME FRASER jayme.fraser@lee.net Jul 6, 2017

MBMG geologist Petr Yakovlev at Stemple PassThe earthquake south of Lincoln that shook people from Spokane to Billings occurred along a fault not previously mapped by seismologists, which is not surprising in a region less studied than the seismically active West Coast.

Montana's quake risk is unique, although the exact causes of it remain in debate, said Mike Stickney, seismologist at the Earthquake Studies Office of the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology on the Montana Tech campus in Butte.

"If you look globally, it is interesting and unusual to have a seismic belt such as we have form far from an active plate tectonic boundary," he said.

Photo by Tom Bauer, Missoulian

Did an 'earthquake sky' on Wednesday signal a temblor on the way? Not likely, seismologist says

photo by Tracy Thorton, Montana Standard

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Seismologist Mike Stickney said he wasn't aware of an "earthquake sky," but he said there are some fairly credible reports of lights in the sky around the time an earthquake hits. Stickney said most rock has grains of quartz in it, and quartz has electrical properties. When rocks are under pressure and squeezed in the right way, they may give off energy.

But Stickney added that such earthquake lights have been reported when earthquakes are above a 7.0 magnitude and cause a surface rupture. Thursday's early-morning quake was centered deep within the earth and was not big enough to cause a surface rupture.

Stickney said that while the phenomenon spotted close to sunset in Butte didn't seem likely to be connected to the earthquake that hit hours later, he wouldn't entirely rule it out. "I've tried to learn to say 'nothing is impossible,'" Stickney said.

Montana StandardJuly 6, 2017 Susan Dunlap susan.dunlap@mtstandard.com

Drying out: When streams don't flow, the problem may be deeper than it seems

Cam Carstarphen, MBMG hydrogeologist That's one of the reasons an environmental studies major at the University of Montana joined about a half-dozen people who spent their Sunday learning about the Lolo Watershed Study, which is part of a pilot research partnership between the Montana Department Natural Resources and Conservation Service and the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. Carmen Carstarphen, a hydrologist with the bureau's ground water project, showing the group of interested Lolo residents a graph demonstrating the association between ground water and surface water.That's one of the reasons an environmental studies major at the University of Montana joined about a half-dozen people who spent their Sunday learning about the Lolo Watershed Study, which is part of a pilot research partnership between the Montana Department Natural Resources and Conservation and the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.

Carmen Carstarphen, a hydrologist with the bureau's ground water project, showed the group of interested Lolo residents a graph showing the association between ground water and surface water.

MissioulianJune 21, 2017 — by

Winning Cases

Taking first-place honors at the 2016 Denver Gem and Mineral Show, this past September, were two museums. The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., won the Donna Chirnside Memorial Award for best educational display by a museum with its exhibit of African minerals, and Montana Tech Mineral Museum, in Butte, received the Friends of Mineralogy Award for best educational exhibit by an institution with its display documenting Montana sapphire deposits.


Rocks and MineralsMarch-April 2017 — by Marie Huizing

Lolo Creek's hitting rock bottom and the state wants to find out why

Photo by Rob Chaney, The Missoulian

Lolo CreekLolo Creek has barely a trickle of water as it pases Traveler's Rest State Park in early September. Lolo residents will soon have lots of research explaning how its watershed works and what steps the community might take to keep the creek flowing year round.

So the state of Montana, through its Groundwater Investigation Program, decided to invest in finding an answer.

“This is a fairly robust perennial stream and then in certain years in some parts it goes dry,” senior research hydrogeologist John Wheaton said. “That’s not common.

“There’s no smoking gun.”

February 21, 2017 — PETER FRIESEN peter.friesen@missoulian.com

Maps Made With Light Show the Way

maps made with lightsThe topic, officially, was water. But during a scientific conference in Butte, Montana, earthquake expert Michael Stickney glimpsed something unexpected in a three-dimensional lidar image of the Bitterroot Valley in nearby Missoula.

In a bare-earth lidar image, with the land surface portrayed in detail, Stickney saw what no one knew existed: an active seismic fault with the potential to trigger a magnitude 6.5 to 7.5 earthquake.

“People have always thought the area was relatively immune to large earthquakes,” he said. No large quakes have ever been recorded there. “We knew the fault existed, but the best available evidence was that it was not active.”

 Release Date: January 23, 2017 by Heather Dewar

All that glitters is not gold: Montana's sapphire riches

“Jake Hoover was a gold miner,” says Bozeman businessman Don Baide. “And in the process of mining for gold, his sluice boxes started filling up with these blue pebbles. All his great expectations for that claim never came to pass, for Jake Hoover never struck that rich vein of gold he was seeking in central Montana.

Marissa Lambert/Courtesy of the Gem Gallery — Uncut, rough sapphires from Rock Creek

Montana fancy sapphiresThe consolation? That blue chatter of pebbles in his sluice box was trying to tell him something else – an even richer secret from ages ago that would come to light only in that year, 1895.

Richard Berg, a retired geology professor from the Montana Bureau of Mines at Montana Tech in Butte, said the story is not just legend.

Montana Magazine  September 16, 2016 — by LANCE NIXON  

Ordinary rocks could be future of mining

Photo by Walter Hinick, The Montana Standard

Montana Resources haul truck dumps over 200 tons of waste rock on the top of the Yankee Doodle tailings pondThe Treasure State’s current — and possibly future — treasure lies with ordinary rock mining, a state official said Thursday at a mining symposium in Butte.

Ordinary rocks are the predominant mining commodity for the state.

Rock quarries and rock picking take up nearly half of the land Montana Department of Environmental Quality permits for mining, said DEQ geochemist Garrett Smith in a presentation to about 40 people at the Minerals and Mining Symposium sponsored by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology at Montana Tech.

Montana Standard • October 20, 2016 — Susan Dunlap susan.dunlap@mtstandard.com

Leverich Mystery: Digging into the history of a one-time mining claim

South of Bozeman, up a rutted trail access road, perched on a ridge reaching into the Gallatin National Forest, is a mining cabin — or, rather, the remnants of one. Its history? —A mystery, with the primary clue a metal plaque grown into a broken tree trunk. “AOMC MINING CLAIM,” reads lettering between bullet holes. “NE BOUNDARY.”

AOMC MINING CLAIM, reads lettering between bullet holesA first attempt at sussing out that history was a call to the Gallatin History Museum. There, a staff member suggested looking at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management land patents database, a registry of land grants from the federal government to individuals, — didn’t return a direct hit, however. Continuing the search for other sources we cooresponded with a geologist at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Phyllis Hargrave, who was kind enough to look at some photos from the mine site and pass on her thoughts.

“In the grand scheme of things this would be considered a small mine,” she wrote in an email, pointing to the comparatively small amount of mine waste and saying the shaft appeared to be shored up with trees instead of shaped timbers. “I bet they didn’t explore too much,” she said. “The iron rails may have never been used.” A piece of rusting equipment near the cabin looks like it may have been a portable saw mill, she noted.

Bozeman Daily ChronicleAug 11, 2016 — Story and photos by Eric Dietrich, Chronicle Staff Writer

Worries Run Deep as Creston Water Bottling Plant Seeks Approval

James Rose speaking at Flathad Valley Community CollegeLast week nearly 300 people gathered at Flathead Valley Community College for a presentation that was unrelated but coincidentally about the valley’s deep aquifer. Scientists from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, the agency that researches geologic, groundwater and mineral resources across the state, presented the initial findings of a two-year study of the valley’s key water source. The event, scheduled months before news of the water bottling plant surfaced, was intended as an educational presentation about the critical role the aquifer plays in the region and was not in any way connected to the water bottling controversy, according to organizers.

“The deep aquifer is a phenomenal resource that can both be used and conserved,” said John Wheaton, senior research hydrogeologist with the MBMG.

Flathead BeaconPublished Apr 11, 2016 — By