Abstract

The Paradise Peak mine is a major gold-silver-mercury deposit located in the southwestern part of the Paradise Range near the eastern edge of the Walker Lane in the western Great Basin, Nevada. The Tertiary volcanic rocks of the area can be divided into a sequence of 26- to 24-Ma intermediate lavas, a sequence of 24- to 22-Ma silicic ash-flow tuffs, and a sequence of 20- to 15-Ma intermediate lavas. We classify these rocks as the older, middle, and younger sequences. Sedimentary rocks, and latites and basalts 12 Ma old or younger, locally overlie the younger intermediate lavas south of the mine. Silicified rhyolite tuff in the lower part of the middle tuff sequence is the principal host of the precious metal ore. Most ore occurs under an acid-leached zone of alunitic alteration and is contained in hydrothermal breccias that crosscut early quartz-pyrite and alunite alteration.Field relations and K-Ar ages of hypogene alunite indicate that precious metal mineralization and alunitic and silicic alteration formed at about 19 to 18 Ma, several million years after eruption of the main host rock. Mineralization formed during high-angle faulting related to crustal extension. Low-angle normal faults are present 5 km northeast of the Paradise Peak mine, but they formed more than 2 Ma after formation of the Paradise Peak deposit. Silicic and alunitic alteration and precious metal mineralization are generally absent in areas of low-angle faulting.Regional stratigraphic relations and K-Ar ages indicate that volcanism changed from silicic ash-flow tuffs to intermediate lavas at about 20 to 19 Ma. Regionally extensive angular unconformities indicate that a period of "pre-Basin and Range" crustal extension occurred between about 22 to 19 Ma. This extension was penecontemporaneous with the shift in the style of volcanism and with gold-silver mineralization in the Paradise Peak mine and in the Goldfield and Tonopah districts of western Nevada. The close temporal and spatial relationships of precious metal mineralization with pre-Basin and Range extension suggest that extension was a major factor in the genesis of early Miocene precious metal deposits in the western Great Basin.

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