The Pequop Mining District, Elko County, Nevada: An Evolving New Gold District
Richard Bedell, Eric Struhsacker, Lindsay Craig, Marilyn Miller, Mark Coolbaugh, Jessica Smith, Ronald Parratt, 2010. "The Pequop Mining District, Elko County, Nevada: An Evolving New Gold District", The Challenge of Finding New Mineral Resources: Global Metallogeny, Innovative Exploration, and New Discoveries, Richard J. Goldfarb, Erin E. Marsh, Thomas Monecke
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Several gold deposits discovered since 1990 in the central Pequop Mountains of Elko County, northeastern Nevada, make up the new Pequop mining district. The most advanced projects, including Long Canyon and West Pequop, have a combined resource exceeding 42.5 tonnes Au and growing. Favorable open-pit mining economics are generated by high-grade, oxidized gold deposits above the water table.
The deposits exhibit characteristics typical of Carlin-type gold deposits, including limestone and calcareous siliciclastic host rocks, collapse breccias, and <5 micron gold grains in rims of oxidized arsenian pyrite grains. Host rocks are decalcified, argillized, and locally silicified (jasperoid). Some gold mineralization, particularly at Long Canyon, occurs along the margins of competent blocks of Cambrian Notch Peak dolomite in contact with limestone.
The Pequop mining district lies outside the well-known Nevada gold trends. In contrast to many Carlin-type deposits, mineralization is hosted by the Cambrian and Ordovician miogeoclinal sequence of interbedded platform carbonate and siliciclastic rocks. The degree of penetrative deformation and metamorphism is unusually high due to extensive crustal thickening and deep burial during the Jurassic Elko and Cretaceous Sevier orogenies.
Zircon U-Pb dates show that the Pequop Mountains were the site of Jurassic (162–154 Ma), Cretaceous (85–70 Ma), and Eocene (41–39 Ma) intrusive activity, which is observed in other Carlin-type districts. Jurassic mafic to felsic dikes and sills, particularly lamprophyres, form passive hosts to mineralization. Eocene felsic dikes on the western side of the Pequop Mountains are unaltered and unmineralized, they lie within a northeast-trending corridor of gold anomalies, older dikes, and positive aeromagnetic anomalies, which is permissive evidence for an Eocene age of mineralization.
Geophysical anomalies suggest the Pequop district may lie above a prominent break in the continental crust. It is near a west- to northwest-trending conductor, defined by magnetotelluric surveys that may mark the transition between rocks of the Archean Wyoming Province and the Paleoproterozoic Mojave Province. Aeromagnetic data suggest the district is astride a northeastern alignment of intrusions that extends from the Bald Mountain district, located to the southwest, and can be traced northeast to the Tecoma district. Low-frequency filtering of gravity data reveals a distinct northwest-trending boundary that coincides with a similarly oriented trend of barite vein occurrences. These data, along with the ages of intrusions, suggest the district may be underlain by a deep magmatic plumbing system.
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The Challenge of Finding New Mineral Resources: Global Metallogeny, Innovative Exploration, and New Discoveries
There seems to be general consensus throughout much of the global mining industry that the supply of base and precious metals and some other commodities (e.g., ferrous metals, uranium) is reasonably well assured into the oreseeable future because increases in total resources continue to keep pace with or outstrip global consumption. The basic assumption is that market forces and technological advances will combine to promote and perpetuate this trend (e.g., Tilton, 2003; Crowson, 2008). Others disagree, however, andpredict that shortages are inevitable if metal consumption continues to escalate (Beaty, 2010).
It is already becoming clear that many known resources seem unlikely to be mined, irrespective of commodity prices, because of their low grade and/or quality. Hence, many mineral resources that were uneconomic in the early 2000s are likely to remain so, both today and into the foreseeable future because of increases in both the direct (e.g., energy, labor) and indirect (e.g., environmental, social) production costs. This situation is being further exacerbated by the perceived decrease, over at least the past decade, in the discovery rate of base and precious metal resources measured in terms of both the number of major discoveries made and the exploration dollars spent per discovery (e.g., Dummett, 2000; Horn, 2002; Schodde, 2004). There is also a suggestion that the discoveries made are, on average, becoming both smaller and lower grade. Therefore, it seems reasonable to ask whether current exploration practices and success rates are going to be adequate to provide for the massive increases in metal consumption that world population growth, rising living standards, and rapid industrialization and urbanization in China, India, and other emerging markets appear to portend. For example, Rio Tinto's projections suggest that "by 2030 the additional supplyrequired will be equivalent to replicating the iron ore output of the Pilbara region of Australia every five years, adding another aluminium production complex the size of Canada's Saguenay every nine months, and developing another copper mine the size of Escondida in Chile each year. Future energrequirements are such that an entire Hunter Valley coal supply chain needs to be created each year plus a uranium mine the size of Ranger every four years" (Albanese, 2010, p. 7). Clearly, the exploration business has to become increasingly effective if it is to rise to the challenge of finding mineral resources of the right caliber to assure that this burgeoning demand can be adequately satisfied.