The Mineralogy and Petrology of Telluride-Sulfosalt-Sulfide Replacement Deposits in the Leadville Dolomite, Buckeye Gulch, Colorado
Demetrius C. Pohl, David W. Beaty, 1990. "The Mineralogy and Petrology of Telluride-Sulfosalt-Sulfide Replacement Deposits in the Leadville Dolomite, Buckeye Gulch, Colorado", Carbonate-Hosted Sulfide Deposits of the Central Colorado Mineral Belt, David W. Beaty, Gary P. Landis, Tommy B. Thompson
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Pyritic replacement deposits in the Mississippian Leadville Dolomite at Buckeye Gulch (8 km north of Leadville, Colorado) are rich in gold (as much as 74 ppm), silver (as much as 797 ppm), and tellurium (as much as 1,500 ppm). The pyrite grains contain small, sporadically distributed, ovoid mineral inclusions 5 to 50 μm in diameter. Textural relations suggest that the inclusions formed before pyrite. In some samples, the inclusions are predominantly composed of bornite and pyrrhotite with minor sphalerite and tetrahedrite-tennantite. In other samples the inclusions contain telluride minerals, chalcopyrite, uative tellurium, sphalerite, and rare tennantite-tetrahedrite. Eleven different telluride minerals have been identified, all of which are found iu single samples: altaite (PbTe), hessite (Ag2Te), stuetzite (Ag5-xTe3), petzite (Ag3AuTe2), sylvauite (AuAgTe4, kostovite (AuCuTe4), coloradoite (HgTe), rickardite (Cu3Te2), weissite (Cu2Te), an unnamed telluride mineral (Ag1.9Te) which appears to be the γphase of Kiukkola aud Wagner (1957), Cabri (1965), and Kracek et al. (1966), and a possibly new telluride miueral (composition close to (Ag,Fe)Te3 with Ag/Fe = 8-11). Within individual inclusions the maximum number of telluride phases is four, equilibrium texture is typical, and incompatible mineral pairs are absent. This suggests that the inclusions initially formed with different bulk chemistry and were then isolated within pyrite. The native tellurium-sylvanite-stuetzite geothermometer of Cabri (1965) was applied to these samples, giving geologically consistent temperatures of 320° to 330°C.
Figures & Tables
Carbonate-Hosted Sulfide Deposits of the Central Colorado Mineral Belt
The carbonate-hosted ore deposits at Leadville, Gil-man, Red Cliff, Aspen, Alma, Tincup, Kokomo, and Mount Sherman have enjoyed a long and storied production history. These orebodies, as well as dozens of smaller deposits, are all located in the central Colorado mineral belt and together constitute an important metallogenic province (Figs. 1 and 2).
Recorded metal production of the major districts in this province to date has consisted of 1,630,000 metric tons of zinc, 1,500,000 metric tons of lead, 145,000 metric tons of copper, 15,600,000 kg of silver, and 110,000 kg of gold (Table 1). For several reasons these figures represent only a portion of the metal concentrated by nature in these deposits:
1. Early production records are probably incomplete.
2. Inefficient methods were used to process much of the ore mined during the 1800s, particnlarly for zinc and copper.
3. The ores in the principal mining districts were partially removed by erosion prior to mining.
4. Significant reserves remain in the Leadville district.
In comparison to other mining districts around the world, the carbonate-hosted sulfide deposits of the central Colorado mineral belt have produced relatively low tonnages of high-grade ore (Table 2). The largest of the districts is Leadville, which to date has produced aboul 24,000,000 metric tons of polymetallic ore. By contrast, the Aspen district has produced only an estimated 4,000,000 metric tons of ore (Table 2), but that ore averaged about 1,000 g/metric ton silver. Although all of the deposits in this metallogenic province are polymetallic, the economic significance of the various metals is not equal. The ores at Gilman, Aspen, and Leadville were valuable primarily for their contained Zn-Cu-Ag, Ag-Pb, and Ag-Au-Pb-Zn, respectively (Table 2).
The first discovery of gold in Colorado was made in July 1858, in a stream draining the eastern Rocky Mountains. This led to the “Pike's Peak” gold rush of 1859, during which an estimated 50,000 people moved into the area (Blair, 1980). These so-called “Fifty-Niners” established most of the mining districts in the northeast portion of the Colorado mineral belt during the summer of 1859. By late 1859 the prospectors had penetrated the Continental Divide, and in April 1860, the placer gold deposits at Leadville were discovered.
A rush to Leadville ensued, and as a result of heavy mining pressure, the Leadville placers were essentially depleted by 1868. The much larger and more valuable carbonate replacement ores at Leadville,