Abstract

The northern Shoshone and Toiyabe Ranges in north-central Nevada expose numerous areas of mineralized Paleozoic rock, including major Carlin-type gold deposits at Pipeline and Cortez. Paleozoic rocks in these areas were previously interpreted to have undergone negligible postmineralization extension and tilting, but here we present new data that suggest major post-Eocene extension along west-dipping normal faults. Tertiary rocks in the northern Shoshone Range crop out in two W-NW–trending belts that locally overlie and intrude highly deformed Lower Paleozoic rocks of the Roberts Mountains allochthon. Tertiary exposures in the more extensive, northern belt were interpreted as subvertical breccia pipes (intrusions), but new field data indicate that these “pipes” consist of a 35.8 Ma densely welded dacitic ash flow tuff (informally named the tuff of Mount Lewis) interbedded with sandstones and coarse volcaniclastic deposits. Both tuff and sedimentary rocks strike N-S and dip 30° to 70° E; the steeply dipping compaction foliation in the tuffs was interpreted as subvertical flow foliation in breccia pipes. The southern belt along Mill Creek, previously mapped as undivided welded tuff, includes the tuff of Cove mine (34.4 Ma) and unit B of the Bates Mountain Tuff (30.6 Ma). These tuffs dip 30° to 50° east, suggesting that their west-dipping contacts with underlying Paleozoic rocks (previously mapped as depositional) are normal faults. Tertiary rocks in both belts were deposited on Paleozoic basement and none appear to be breccia pipes. We infer that their present east tilt is due to extension on west-dipping normal faults. Some of these faults may be the northern strands of middle Miocene (ca. 16 Ma) faults that cut and tilted the 34.0 Ma Caetano caldera ~40° east in the central Shoshone Range (<5 km south of Mill Creek), but further mapping is necessary to trace the faults through the highly deformed Paleozoic rocks that surround the isolated Tertiary outcrops. Significant post-Eocene extensional faulting in the northern Shoshone Range may have important implications for both the structure of the Roberts Mountains allochthon and the exposure of potentially mineralized rocks in its lower plate, both of which were likely east-tilted and repeated by west-dipping faults together with overlying Tertiary rocks.

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