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The U.S. Geological Survey will conduct an airborne survey to study the rock layers under a region of southeast Missouri and eastern Illinois starting this month with the project to run through March 2019.

When the data analysis is complete, results will provide state-of-the-art, subsurface maps that will contribute to a wide range of 3-D representations of the nation’s exposed and concealed geology.

As part of this research, a low-flying airplane with auxiliary instrumentation will be used. Area residents might see an aircraft flying low to the ground near the Farmington, Salem, and Rolla areas.

The airplane is under contract to the USGS through TerraQuest Ltd. The aircraft will be operated by experienced pilots who are specially trained and approved for low-level flying. All flights are coordinated with the FAA to ensure flights are in accordance with U.S. law.

The airborne survey will augment and extend geophysical surveys flown by the USGS in 2014 and 2016. The area flown will cover important mining districts around the St. Francois Mountains and major structures with potential seismic implications within the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

USGS scientists plan to use the new geophysical data to help determine the 3-D geologic framework surrounding known and potentially undiscovered critical mineral resources.

In addition, this research is meant to map the soil and rock chemistry at the surface and to study rocks that are deeply buried, beneath limestone and sandstone layers.

The airplane will carry magnetic sensors mounted on the wing tips and tail stinger of the aircraft and an instrument inside the aircraft. The instruments will measure low, background levels of natural radioactivity that will be used to map different types of surface rocks and soils.

None of the instruments carried on the aircraft pose a health risk to people or animals.

This survey will be flown at elevations of approximately 260 to 450 feet above ground in a grid pattern along north-south flight lines spaced approximately 980 feet apart.

East-west flight lines will be spaced 9,800 feet apart. All survey flights will occur during daylight hours.

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