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Abstract

For the last several decades, gold exploration in Nevada has been strongly focused on sedimentary rock-hosted gold deposits in the Carlin, Cortez, Independence, and Getchell trends in north-central Nevada. Accordingly, less exploration activity has been directed toward the search for similar gold deposits in the eastern Great Basin, south and east of the major trends.

Deposits in the central and northern Carlin and Cortez trends are hosted primarily in Upper Devonian middle slope soft-sediment slumps and slides and base-of-slope carbonate debris flows, turbidites, and enclosing in situ fractured lime mudstones. This is in marked contrast to gold deposits in the eastern Great Basin that are hosted primarily in three chronostratigraphic horizons: (1) shallow-water, Cambrian and Ordovician carbonate platform interior, supratidal karsted horizons and shelf lagoon strata, associated with eustatic sea-level lowstands and superjacent, transgressive calcareous shale and siltstone horizons that are deposited as sea level begins to rise, (2) Early Mississippian foreland basin turbidites and debris flows overlying karsted Late Devonian platform strata, and (3) Pennsylvanian and Permian shallow marine basin strata. Stratigraphic architecture in these three horizons was influenced in part by Mesozoic (Elko and Sevier) contractional deformation, including low-angle thrust and attenuation faults, boudinage, and large-scale folds, which in turn affected the orientation and localization of synmineral brittle normal faults.

A compilation of past production, reserves, and resources (including historic and inferred) suggests an overall endowment of over 41 Moz of gold (1,275 tonnes) discovered to date in the eastern Great Basin, some in relatively large deposits. Significant clusters of deposits include the Rain-Emigrant-Railroad and Bald Mountain-Alligator Ridge areas on the southern extension of the Carlin trend, the Ruby Hill-Windfall-South Lookout-Pan on the southern extension of the Cortez trend, and the Long Canyon-West Pequop-Kinsley Mountain area near Wells, Nevada. Sedimentary rock-hosted gold deposits extend to the eastern edge of the Great Basin in Utah and Idaho and include the past-producing Black Pine, Barney’s Canyon, Mercur, and Goldstrike mines. The recognition of widespread, favorable host rocks and depositional environments on the Paleozoic platform-interior shelf in the eastern Great Basin opens up vast areas that have been relatively underexplored in the past.

A basic premise throughout this paper is that the better we understand the origin of rocks and the depositional and postdepositional processes under which they formed, the more accurately we can make well-founded stratigraphic, sedimentological, structural, geochemical, and diagenetic interpretations. Without this understanding, as well as the rigorous application of multiple working hypotheses to explain our observations, the advance of science and the discovery of gold deposits is problematic.

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