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Active and Fossil Hydrothermal Mineralization in the Salton Trough Rift

Michael A. McKibben
Michael A. McKibben
Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, (714) 787–3444
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January 01, 1991


The Salton Trough rift, manifested geomorphically as the Imperial Valley in southern California and the Mexicali Valley in northern Baja California (Figure 1), possesses an abundance of natural resources. These valleys are major areas for agriculture, game fish, and waterfowl migration and management. Major nonrenewable resources include metallic minerals (primarily gold) and industrial minerals (primarily gypsum and aggregate). Finally, two of the world’s largest liquid–dominated geothermal energy fields are located in the rift: the Salton Sea field in California and the Cerro Prieto field in Mexico. The rift is therefore of major economic importance to the population of southwestern North America. The purpose of this field trip is to introduce economic geologists to the diversity of hydrothermal mineralization in this modern continental rift environment.

Viewed in the simplest way the Salton Trough consists of an active continental rift, underlain by a fragmented oceanic ridge spreading system, into which has been deposited the delta of the Colorado River. Deposition of the delta has significantly influenced the character of economic mineralization in the rift. The combination of magmatic heat sources, thick porous sediments, tectonic activity, and saline lakes have provided a unique environment for the accumulation and movement of metalliferous hydrothermal brines. Before considering these aspects, a summary of the tectonic evolution of the Gulf of California and Salton Trough is presented.

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Society of Economic Geologists Guidebook Series

The Diversity of Mineral and Energy Resources of Southern California

Michael A. McKibben
Michael A. McKibben
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Society of Economic Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1991




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