Abstract

High-resolution airborne magnetic and gravity gradiometry data provide the geophysical framework for evaluating the exploration potential of hidden iron oxide deposits in Mesoproterozoic basement rocks of southeast Missouri. The data are used to calculate mineral prospectivity for iron oxide-apatite (IOA) ± rare earth element (REE) and iron oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) deposits. Results delineate the geophysical footprints of all known iron oxide deposits and reveal several previously unrecognized prospective areas. The airborne data are also inverted to three-dimensional density and magnetic susceptibility models over four concealed deposits at Pea Ridge (IOA ± REE), Boss (IOCG), Kratz Spring (IOA), and Bourbon (IOCG). The Pea Ridge susceptibility model shows a magnetic source that is vertically extensive and traceable to a depth of greater than 2 km. A smaller density source, located within the shallow Precambrian basement, is partly coincident with the magnetic source at Pea Ridge. In contrast, the Boss models show a large (625-m-wide), vertically extensive, and coincident dense and magnetic stock with shallower adjacent lobes that extend more than 2,600 m across the shallow Precambrian paleosurface. The Kratz Spring deposit appears to be a smaller volume of iron oxides and is characterized by lower density and less magnetic rock compared to the other iron deposits. A prospective area identified south of the Kratz Spring deposit shows the largest volume of coincident dense and nonmagnetic rock in the subsurface, and is interpreted as prospective for a hematite-dominant lithology that extends from the top of the Precambrian to depths exceeding 2 km. The Bourbon deposit displays a large bowl-shaped volume of coincident high density and high-magnetic susceptibility rock, and a geometry that suggests the iron mineralization is vertically restricted to the upper parts of the Precambrian basement. In order to underpin the evaluation of the prospectivity and three-dimensional models, an extensive statistical summary of density and apparent magnetic susceptibility measurements is presented that includes data on several hundred samples taken from the deposits, altered wall rocks, and unaltered country rocks.

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