A synthesis of field, biostratigraphic, detrital zircon geochronologic, and remote sensing data across north-central Nevada, United States, defines a thick, regionally extensive sheet of Middle–Upper Ordovician Valmy Formation quartzite that structurally overlies deformed early Paleozoic units of the Roberts Mountains allochthon. Late Paleozoic regional unconformities that record tectonic disruptions have been recognized in the foreland of central and eastern Nevada and locally within the Roberts Mountains allochthon; these identify multiple, regional tectonic events between the Devonian–Mississippian initiation of the Antler orogeny and the Permian–Triassic Sonoma orogeny. However, few studies have documented the regional kinematic history of the Robert Mountains allochthon sensu stricto. In the Independence Mountains of northern Nevada, emplacement of the Roberts Mountains allochthon is restricted to the Mississippian. In the Tuscarora Mountains, the range west and southwest of the Independence Mountains, several deformation events have been identified, and emplacement of the thrust sheet containing the Valmy Formation is restricted to the Late Pennsylvanian–Early Permian. These structural and temporal relations, reflected in the Antler foreland basin adjacent to the Roberts Mountains allochthon and overlap sequences, suggest that the Roberts Mountains allochthon is a composite stratigraphic terrane assembled along the Cordilleran margin during two or more late Paleozoic contractional events.
Valmy Formation deposits likely represent the development of coalescing submarine fans below or within bypass channels in a deep slope or rise environment. Petrographic characteristics, biostratigraphy, and detrital zircon U-Pb age populations of the Valmy Formation link it to coeval slope and rise turbidites of the Vinini Formation and shelfal Eureka Quartzite; Valmy Formation detrital zircon age populations are dissimilar to the rift-to-drift facies of the Neoproterozoic–Cambrian Prospect Mountain Quartzite. Throughout north-central Nevada, the Valmy Formation is in fault contact with units of the Roberts Mountains allochthon, including the Devonian–Mississippian Slaven Chert, Silurian–Devonian Elder Sandstone, and Cambrian(?)–Ordovician Vinini Formation, which were deformed prior to, or during, emplacement of the thrust sheet containing Valmy Formation quartzite. Our mapping and data synthesis, guided by regional quartz maps based on remote sensing (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer [ASTER]) data, delineate similar structural relationships discontinuously for >200 km along strike of the Roberts Mountains allochthon.
Exploration for concealed gold deposits within reach of drilling requires knowledge of the relative thicknesses of the Roberts Mountains allochthon and the Valmy Formation. Overall thicknesses of deformed Roberts Mountains allochthon units between the Valmy Formation and underlying carbonate rocks, which host large, world-class Carlin-type gold deposits, vary by hundreds of meters, but are generally less than 700 m in three of the areas studied here. Recognition of windows through and klippen of the Roberts Mountains allochthon is essential for identification of areas where deposits may be at or near the surface. Correspondingly, most ongoing exploration for Carlin-type gold deposits subjacent to the Roberts Mountains allochthon targets concealed deposits. The model proposed in this study is applicable to determining depth to rocks prospective for undiscovered deposits.