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Riches hidden below?


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Andrew Laker | The Republic
Paul Castle, right, and David Dunaway of Geo-Drill, Inc., remove core samples from a drill tube as geologists Walter Hasenmueller and Robin Rupp observe June 27 near Azalia.
Andrew Laker | The Republic Paul Castle, right, and David Dunaway of Geo-Drill, Inc., remove core samples from a drill tube as geologists Walter Hasenmueller and Robin Rupp observe June 27 near Azalia.

Andrew Laker | The Republic
Walter Hasenmueller, research scientist for the Geologic Mapping Section, left, and geologist Robin Rupp discuss their findings June 27 after evaluating core samples collected near Azalia.
Andrew Laker | The Republic Walter Hasenmueller, research scientist for the Geologic Mapping Section, left, and geologist Robin Rupp discuss their findings June 27 after evaluating core samples collected near Azalia.


While there’s probably no pirate’s chest, there still may be treasure below your feet.

It’s well known that a diverse amount of natural resources can be found in Bartholomew County. However, people aren’t as sure about the quantities of resources that remain or the possibility of vast minerals that have not been discovered.

Rest assured, a group of geologists from Indiana University is working to come up with the answers.

A team from the Indiana Geological Survey is entering the final phase of a three-year study to assess the bedrock in western areas near the Brown County line, but the head of the survey team wants to expand the project to include all of Bartholomew County.

“The eastern part of Bartholomew County is the glacial country with large deposits of clay, sand and gravel,” research scientist Walter Hasenmueller said. “But then, right down the center, is this big out-wash of river valley underneath Columbus that provides water.”

Hasenmueller added that minerals and rock, the source of crushed stones, can be found from the Shelbyville area all the way south into Jennings County.

He said it’s likely that there are resources of value deeper in the ground.

Hasenmueller explained that different layers of mineral, rock and other deposits were often left in the same location during different periods of time.

“For example, western Bartholomew County bedrock is not a huge resource,” he said. “But the New Providence shale under the bedrock is a source of making tiles produced in Martinsville. And under that, there is New Albany shale that is considered a possible source of petroleum.”

The potentially oil-producing layer is 120 to 130 feet thick, Hasenmueller said.

He also wonders what rich minerals and resources created may have been deposited into the aquifers under Columbus.

“In terms of geology, Bartholomew County is under-mapped,” Hasenmueller said. “We are talking with an individual who might come into the project to map the unconsolidated glacial sediments in eastern Bartholomew County and the river valleys under Columbus.”

If approved, the goal would be to map the entire county from the surface down to what was deposited as far back as 438 million years ago.

The team also wants to further investigate geological findings in the region that might not make anyone rich but are nevertheless interesting.

w“And then, there’s Anderson Falls. That is such a neat place. If we can find a way to make features like Anderson Falls known to the public, it could spur interest in other people to come and see it for themselves.”

The IU scientist is hopeful that the completed study will attract both scholars and tourists alike, and that the data will be made available to the general population for a variety of purposes.

One justification for the study is to provide more detailed information for local residents concerned with retaining good quality water as mining continues in the future, according to Hasenmueller.

“I would hope that someone in the wake of our project will take what we’ve discovered and use that information to evaluate water to determine where mining is feasible in the future. I hope that will feed into Bartholomew County’s own planning process,” Hasenmueller said.

The project is part of a state mapping project commissioned in honor of the 175th anniversary of Indiana geological surveying. Almost half of the $75,000 annual cost of the local project is paid for by the U.S. Geological Survey. The rest is raised by Indiana University.

The mission of the Indiana Geological Survey is to assess the mineral, rock and unconsolidated material resources of the state of Indiana.

At a glance

A brief timeline of Bartholomew County’s natural resources.

Silurian Era (408 to 438 million years ago): Clay, sand and gravel deposits build up. This terrain is today commonly found in eastern regions of the county.

Devonian Era (360 to 408 million years ago): Limestone develops. Glacial periods later provide sufficient water supplies in what will become Columbus.

Mississippian Era (320 to 360 million years ago): Bedrock is formed in western areas, along with the hilly terrain.

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