Geology, Alteration and Mineralization of the Modoc Hot Springs Gold Prospect, Imperial County, California
Frank L. Hillemeyer, Michael D. Johnson, Richard R. Kern, 1991. "Geology, Alteration and Mineralization of the Modoc Hot Springs Gold Prospect, Imperial County, California", The Diversity of Mineral and Energy Resources of Southern California, Michael A. McKibben
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The Modoc prospect is a Plio-Pleistocene epithermal gold-bearing hot springs system located in the northwestern Salton Trough. To date, Modoc offers the best preserved and developed fossil analogue of the currently active geothermal systems in the continental rift. A surficial hot springs origin for the system is evidenced by interbedded, nearly flat-lying chalcedonic sinter beds exhibiting a strong layered morphology, hummocky pool structures and well preserved fossil reed casts.
The primary structural control on the hot springs system is a major ENE-striking, southerly dipping, oblique-slip fault system separating Jurassic granodiorite on the north from Plio-Pleistocene continental sediments on the south. This “Truckhaven” fault system appears to be coincident with the edge of a large basin related to crustal thinning and progradation of the Colorado River Delta into the proto Gulf of California.
Gold mineralization occurs as electrum and native gold (8 to 1800 microns) and is associated with sheeted and banded chalcedony veins, silicified and adularized sandstone and conglomerate, and siliceous sinter beds. Gold and chalcedony precipitated simultaneously in numerous episodes and preliminary fluid inclusion data indicate temperatures ranging from 90 to 135°C. Gold mineralization is locally high grade (up to 1.4 ounces of gold per ton over a 20′ (6.1 m) width) and is found in highly anomalous concentrations over an area measuring 8,000′ (2,438 m) long by up to 2,000′ (610 m) wide. Correlation coefficient data indicate a strong gold, silver, copper affinity. The typical hot springs pathfinder elements As, Sb and Hg are present in unusually low concentrations.
The Modoc hot springs system is more akin to the active geothermal fields situated on the margins of the rift than those in the center of the Trough. It is strikingly similar to the high-silica Dunes geothermal system, which has no surface expression largely due to the development of hydrothermally induced caprocks. The rediscovery of the Modoc hot springs gold prospect leaves exploration geologists wondering how many other such occurrences underlay the seemingly barren sediments of the Imperial and Mexicali Valleys.
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The Kramer borate deposit is located in the northwestern Mojave Desert, about 90 air miles northeast of Los Angeles and 3 miles north of the town of Boron (figure 1). The deposit derives its name from the mining district in which it lies. The Kramer deposit, presently being mined from the Boron open pit, has been a world-class source of sodium borates since mine startup in 1926 and continues to be the largest source of borates in the world.
The Kramer ore body is a roughly lenticular sedimentary sequence of borax (Na2B4O7 • 10H2O) and kernite (Na2B4O7 • 4H2O) containing interbedded claystone. This central crystalline facies is successively enveloped by facies consisting of ulexite (Na,CaB5O9 • 8H2O) -bearing claystone, colemanite (Ca2B6O11 • 5H2O) -bearing claystone, and barren claystone. Studies indicate the Kramer borates were deposited in a small structural, nonmarine basin, associated with thermal (volcanic) spring activity during Miocene time.
The Kramer deposit does not crop out. It was discovered accidentally in 1213 by Dr. John Suckow, a homesteader, who struck colemanite while drilling a water well (figure 2). Exploratory drilling and shaft sinking after World War I by Pacific Coast Borax Company, the predecessor of U.S. Borax, led to the discovery of borax and kernite in 1925. In 1926 PCB went into large-scale, underground sodium borate mining in the Baker mine, located nearly 2 miles east of Suckow's discovery well. The company soon closed all its calcium borate operations near Ryan in Death Valley in favor of the more easily processed sodium borates at Boron.
U.S. Borax ships mostly bulk, refined sodium borate products and boric acid to both domestic and world markets from Boron. Principal uses for these products are in the manufacturing of glass and fiberglass, herbicides, ceramics, soaps and detergents, fluxes, fertilizers, and fire retardants.