The near-infrared spectra of a suite of outcrop samples of massive sulfide gossans and false gossans representing three different weathering environments were measured and studied with X-ray, scanning electron microscope, and energy dispersive X-ray. Gossans that formed in a humid tropical environment are represented by samples from the Mt. Isa area, Queensland, Australia, and gossans that formed in an arid environment are represented by samples from several locations in Saudi Arabia. The gossans of the West Shasta massive sulfide district in California represent a weathering environment intermediate between these two extremes.On the basis of these spectral measurements, true gossans after massive sulfide deposits have spectra in the 800 to 2,500 nanometer (nm) region that are distinctly different from the spectra of false gossans. In the humid tropical environment, highly leached, newly formed kaolin minerals in the gossan cause spectral differences at about 1,400 to 2,200 nm. In the arid environment, true gossans preserve talc and minor mica from the massive sulfide deposit; these minerals are not observed in false gossans. These minerals result in spectral differences in the 2,200- to 2,300-nm region. In addition, true gossans generally have goethite spectral bands at about 900 nm as opposed to hematite spectral bands at about 850 nm for the false gossans.False gossans are not known in the West Shasta district; however, the gossan at the largest deposit, Iron Mountain, is a true gossan that has the distinctive spectral features of goethite at about 900 nm and diaspore in the 1,400- to 2,500-nm region. The other gossans also have the spectral features of goethite, but they contain a less leached mixture of kaolinite plus illite and have distinctive spectral features in the 1,400- to 2,500-nm region. These spectral differences define two groups of West Shasta gossans--inner gossans in large deposits and outer gossans at the margins of large deposits and in lesser massive sulfide deposits.

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