Cryptocrystalline magnesite occurs as relatively small dense, white masses in a Tertiary volcanic tuff, here named the Currant tuff, in White Pine and Nye counties, 29 miles southwest of Ely, Nevada. The deposits are small, but some of the magnesite is of very high quality with almost no iron or aluminum. However, much of the magnesite is mixed with dolomite and calcite, and a serpentinelike mineral occurs in one of the deposits in sufficient abundance to be of possible use in ceramics.
In scattered areas the tuff has been altered by solutions rich in magnesium and bicarbonic acid to dolomite, magnesite, magnesium silicate, and calcite. Mineral and chemical characteristics are the same throughout the entire rock assemblage of flows and tuffs, suggesting that all the rocks have been derived from the same parent magma. The tuff formation, which ranges in thickness from a few feet to over 400 feet, occurs between two groups of volcanic flows here referred to as the lower volcanics and the upper volcanics. The lower volcanics is composed mainly of flows of hypersthene dacite, but in the southwestern part of the area flows of a hypersthene andesite of balsaltic habit occur between the dacite and the overlying Currant tuff. The upper volcanics which overlie the Currant tuff consist of porphyritic quartz latite and an overlying massive latite crystal tuff. The Currant tuff containing the magnesite has both unmodified and reworked tuff members.
The formation of hydrothermal dolomite, magnesite, and deweylite is discussed in detail, and the physical chemistry of solutions containing calcium, magnesium, and carbon dioxide is applied in an explanation of the origin of magnesium-rich solutions.