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Ore photo from underground

Economic Geology

Greg Arehart: (775) 784-6470
Professor, Geological Sciences

John Muntean: (775) 682-8748
Associate Professor, NBMG

Mike Ressel (775) 682-7844
Assistant Professor, NBMG

A Driver of Nevada's Economy

Nevada is well endowed with abundant mineral resources that fuel an active mining industry, which is an important driver of economic activity and employment for the state.

The future of the mining industry, however, is dependent upon the discovery and successful mining of new ore deposits. As demand for minerals increases in the developing world and ore deposits exposed at the Earth's surface are mined out, it is becoming increasingly challenging for the mining industry to find new deposits. The economic geology program at the UNR presents unique opportunities not available at other universities.

Abundant Mineral Deposits

First, northern Nevada has arguably the widest variety of hydrothermal ore deposits on the planet, including Carlin-type gold deposits, low-, intermediate- and high-sulfidation epithermal gold-silver deposits, porphyry copper-gold deposits, porphyry molybdenum, skarn deposits, and wide variety of other intrusion-related polymetallic deposits. Second, northern Nevada is one of the few places that has both an active mining and geothermal industry, allowing unique research and educational opportunities. Hydrothermal ore deposits in many respects are simply fossilized geothermal systems. Finally, northern Nevada's vibrant mining industry funds research and allows students to access a variety of deposits along with a vast three-dimensional datasets. The industry employs several hundred economic geologists in northern Nevada, both in exploration and at the mines, providing unparalleled job opportunities for UNR graduates.


Research at UNR includes application of a wide variety of techniques, both in the field and the laboratory, to not only understand of the origin of hydrothermal ore deposits, but to develop methods to better mine deposits and explore for new ones. Student research is commonly funded by a combination of industry grants and grants from the government agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey. Another funding option is the Ralph Roberts Center for Research in Economic Geology (CREG), which is sponsored and funded by mineral companies active around the world. CREG supports numerous student research projects on mineral deposits.


Within the department there are laboratory facilities for crushing, grinding, sawing, polishing, mineral separation, and thin section preparation. Our microscopy labs include transmitted and reflected light; cathodoluminescence and fluid inclusion capabilities. Computer facilities include numerous personal computers and Sun and Silicon Graphics workstations, with access to ArcGIS and a large selection of software for graphics, modeling, and structural and stratigraphic work. We have access to automated XRD and XRF capability as well as AA (including graphite furnace) and a Dionex 2000i/SP Ion Chromatograph with anion and monovalent cation columns, and an Inductively-Coupled Plasma ­Mass Spectrometer. In addition, we operate a complete modern stable isotope laboratory capable of analyzing H, N, C, O, and S isotopes in all geological materials. For analytical techniques that are not available at UNR, we have a variety of collaborators around the world that give us access to virtually any analytical technique needed to solve a research problem.

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