Bureau building on schedule


By John Larson
El Defernsor Chieftain

Although construction work began two months ago, the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources building at New Mexico Tech was held for Feb 16 at the corner of Bullock Blvd. and Leroy Place. Wielding a golden shovel, Tech President Dan Lopez was joined by the facility’s director, L. Greer Price, Socorro City Councilor Donald Monette and Mayor Ravi Bhasker.
Lopez said the project, when completed in 2015, will result in benefits not only to the university and state, but also to the community.
“The importance of the facility is that it’s going to permit us to offer more access to the public with respect to the extractive industries in New Mexico,” Lopez said. “But the other dimension that this facility will bring is an opportunity to work even more intensely on water issues, which is one for the roles of the bureau and certainly important to New Mexico.

John Larson/El Defensor Chieftain: An overhead view of construction on the new $18 million Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources building at New Mexico Tech. The 83,000-square-foot building will house an improved Mineral Museum as well as all of the bureau’s offices, classrooms and laboratories in one location. The building is expected to be finished in March, 2014.

“So, we think it’ll enhance visibility, our interaction with the public and provide us an opportunity to give better public service and support economic development in the state of New Mexico. We feel very fortunate to have the support of the governor and legislature to build this 85,000 square foot facility which will serve as Bureau of Geology and Mineral Museum, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey.”
Miguel Hidalgo, Tech’s Director of Special Projects, echoed Lopez’s comments and added that “it will be located at a place on campus where it will be very, very visible. As you come west on Bullock you’ll see a beautiful building.”
Hidalgo said it has taken seven years to get the project realized.
“It’s really been a joint effort, involving the cooperation and input of an extreme number of people,” he said. “This is a facility that’s really not just a New Mexico Tech facility. This is a facility that’s going to be amplifying the state of New Mexico.
“By that I mean that since I’ve been here at New Mexico Tech I’ve seen all the research being done, the study labs and all levels of instruction on natural resources. Every year geologists from all over the state and even the nation come here for research and the wealth of information here.”

John Larson/El Defensor Chieftain: Groundbreaking for the new Bureau of Geology building on the corner of Bullock Blvd. and Leroy Place at New Mexico Tech was performed by (from left): Mayor Ravi Bhasker, Tech President Dan Lopez, New Mexico State Geologist L. Greer Price and City Councilor Donald Monette.

The bureau was formed on Mar. 14, 1927, by an act of the legislature. It was designated as a research division of the university, and U.S. Geological Survey for the state of New Mexico. At that point the University was almost 40 years old, and the bureau was housed in part of Old Main, the building that stood where Brown Hall is today.
Ongoing current research at the bureau include hydrology and groundwater studies, oil and gas assessments, geothermal and coal studies, mineral resources and geologic mapping of the state, and volcanic hazard assessment.
Director of the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources L. Greer Price, who is also the state geologist, said there is a emphasis on the public face on the building to serve both the local community and visitors to Socorro.
“We get about 15,000 walk-in visitors, including school groups from all over the state, each year to the Mineral Museum and we expect an increase to that,” Price said. “The Geological Information Center is really a significant resource for both the scientific community and public as well and serves people from all over the state.”
The Geological Information Center is a specialized library and archive focusing on geologic data relating to New Mexico’s mining and petroleum industries, mineral and water resources, and geology.
More than 5,000 maps, approximately 5,000 reports and publications, more than 2,000 photographs, and approximately 1,200 theses and dissertations.
He said the location of the new building will certainly attract those from outside the area who are visiting Socorro and the surrounding area.
“We get a lot of walk in traffic for information,” Price  said. “Hunters and hikers come to look at topographical maps, for instance.”
Documents are available for use during normal business hours.