The Calistoga Mining District, is one of three districts in the northern California Coast Ranges, where epithermal precious metals deposits have been economically mined. The district produced over 1.5 million ounces of silver (with lesser amounts of gold, copper and lead) intermittently over a 76 year period. The Palisade and Silverado mines were the two producers of the district.
Precious metals enrichment is associated with northeast-striking, en echelon quartz + chalcedony + adularia vein systems, hosted by flows and pyroclastic rocks of die Tertiary Sonoma Volcanics. Basement rocks are part of the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic Franciscan Complex, composed largely of tectonized marine sediments and dismembered ophiolite. Silver dominates gold by 74:1, and occurs in various sulfides, sulfosalts and selenides. Gold occurs in its native state, but is rarely macroscopic. In addition, this system is highly enriched in Cu, Sb, Zn, Pb, As and Ba, and contains anomalous concentrations of Se, Cd, Hg, Te, Ga, Tl, Mo and Bi.
Veins formed at +200 m depths, along dilational segments of normeast-striking (sinistral) conjugate Reidel shears, associated with a zone of San Andreas-style dextral wrench faulting. The zone of alteration and vein propagation is restricted to a corridor 1.5 km wide by 14.5 km long. This corridor appears to be structurally related to a local dilatiuaal jog in a 305°-striking dextral shear zone. The orientation of the optimal plane of extension was approximately 196° (right hand rule), dipping 74°. Because the volcanic pile has deformed as a homogeneous medium, a comparison of 595 vein and shear joint attitudes, taken in the Silverado and Palisade vein systems, provides a means of determining finite strain ellipsoid axes for vein formation. Based on these data, the orientation of Z is calculated to be 202°, plunging 18° and X at 106°, plunging 16°. Because of scatter in the data, the above axes are assigned error limits of ±15°. These values do not take into account the possibility of post-mineral rotation.
Fluid inclusion geothermometry indicates that this was a boiling system, with temperatures averaging 212° and 249° for the Palisade and Silverado veins, respectively. The mineralizing fluids were low salinity (-1.0 wt. % NaCl equivalent), NaCl-dominated, and possibly enriched in CO2. They are believed to be evolved meteoric waters, chemically and isotopically similar to those of the Geysers and McLaughlin systems. Metals were presumably transported as bisulfide and (to a lesser extent) chloride complexes. Precipitation was triggered by CO2 and H2S partitioning in response to fault-induced increases in vertical permeability.
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Active Geothermal Systems and Gold-Mercury Deposits in the Sonoma-Clear Lake Volcanic Fields, California
Since the discovery of gold and silver in the northern part of the Napa Valley in 1858, ore deposits and geothermal systems have drawn a variety of geologists to study one of the few areas in the United States where hot springs are actively depositing gold and mercury. The geothermal systems and very young precious-metal and mercury deposits occur in two adjacent volcanic fields, the older Sonoma volcanic field and the younger Clear Lake volcanic field. In the eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, precious metal deposits hosted by the Sonoma volcanic field produced only a small amount of gold and silver. The fertile soil and good drainage of the volcanic rocks in this area gave way to vineyards and wineries and the mines were closed and abandoned. The younger Clear Lake volcanic field has gone through several cycles of mineral and geothermal development The hot springs in the volcanic field were developed initially for their supposed medicinal benefits although many of the springs contained toxic levels of mercury. Mercury and sulfur were mined from several of the deposits present throughout the volcanic field and spectacular samples containing plumes of native gold within cobbles of cinnabar were discovered in the Sulphur Creek District. In spite of the known association of gold and mercury, mercury mining dominated the mineral development within the volcanic field until the mid-1940's. Development of The Geysers for geothermal power in 1960 began a new phase of economic development, and geothermal power production has continued to be important in the western part of the volcanic field. The most recent mineral development was the discovery of the McLaughlin gold deposit in 1978 at the site of the old Manhattan Mercury Mine. Since that time exploration has continued for auditional epithermal precious-metal deposits but without success.
This guidebook provides an overview of the geothermal systems and ore deposits in the Sonoma and Clear Lake volcanic fields. Several research papers in this guidebook provide important new concepts and data on the ore deposits, geothermal systems, and volcanic rocks within the two volcanic fields from the perspective of geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, and petrologists. In addition, a paper by Fraser Goff and Cathy Janik provides the ftrst comprehensive field guide to the geothermal features within the Clear Lake volcanic field. This field conference and guidebook should provide the basis for new research and a better understanding of the processes that have contributed to the formation of the ore deposits and geothermal systems in the Clear Lake and Sonoma volcanic fields.