Overview of Black Hills Geology and Gold Deposits
The extensive deposits of gold in the Black Hills which have been mined for more than 100 years led to early investigations of the geology and especially the geology as related to the gold deposits (Newton and Jenney, 1880, Van Hise, 1890). Basically the Black Hills consists of an elongate dome of Phanerozoic sedimentary rocks unconformably overlying a core of Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks. The core is largely Proterozoic in age and only about one percent is Archean. In the northern Black Hills are sizable areas of Tertiary igneous rocks representing shallow intrusions in Phanerozoic sedimentary rocks or the roots of such intrusions in the Precambrian rocks.
The dominantly stable platform-setting Phanerozoic sedimentary rocks were uplifted during the Laramide orogeny and erosion scoured into the Precambrian basement so that the physiography of the early Oligocene was similar to the present. Oligocene White River deposits then blanketed much of the dome but subsequent erosion has largely removed these deposits.
Figures & Tables
Since the discovery of gold in 1874, the Black Hills has been well-known as a gold metallogenic province. In fact it is one of the richest areas in the world, having produced approximately 354 kg/km2 (31,750 oz/mile2). The premier mine in this province, theHomestake mine, is one of the oldest and longest -operating in the world, having been in production since 1876. Furthermore, the variety of gold deposit types in such a small area is unique. These include Au-U quartz pebble conglomerate deposits of early Proterozoic age, iron-formation-hosted and quartz vein gold deposits of middle Proterozoic age, paleoplacer Au in basal conglomerates of Cambrian age, epithermal igneous-hosted and sediment-hosted Au-Ag deposits of early Tertiary age, and recent gold placer deposits (see summary of gold deposits in Paterson et al., 1988; reprinted in this volume).
Although the history of mining here is a long one, the origins of the Homestake and other gold deposits in the Black Hills are yet to be fully explained. This is not a result of lack of interest or investigation. Significant studies regarding these deposits were conducted as long ago as 1904 by Irving, and subsequently by Connolly (1927) and Connolly and O'Harra (1929), and by Noble (1950) and Noble and Harder (1948). Then as now, there were opposing schools of thought regarding the origins of the various deposit types. For example, for the Tertiary sediment-hosted replacement deposits, Irving (1904) favored ore deposition from meteoric waters heated by the Tertiary igneous intrusions, whereas Connolly (1927) was a proponent of the magmatic-hydrothermal origin for the sediment-hosted replacement gold-silver deposits. Simultaneously, it was recognized that there were important structural and stratigraphic controls on ore localization, and that the mechanics of the sill and laccolith emplacement influenced the continuity and distribution of ores.
There remain many important questions to be answered regarding the origin and distribution of the gold deposits in the Black Hills. We summarize here some of the more important ones for your consideration during this field conference.
Is the Homestake deposit epigenetic (Noble, 1950; Slaughter, 1968; Bachman and Caddey*; Kath and Redden) or syngenetic but later remobilized (Rye and Rye, 1974; Rogers)? There is no consensus here, even among geologists working directly or indirectly with the Homestake Mining Company. There is general agreement however, that the mineralization is Proterozoic in age (Bachman and Caddey), and not Tertiary as reported inadvertently in the introduction to the