Mineral potential modelling of gold and silver mineralization in the Nevada Great Basin - a GIS-based analysis using weights of evidence

Open-File Report 2001-291




The distribution of 2,690 gold-silver-bearing occurrences in the Nevada Great Basin was examined in terms of spatial association with various geological phenomena. Analysis of these relationships, using GIS and weights of evidence modelling techniques, has predicted areas of high mineral potential where little or no mining activity exists. Mineral potential maps for sedimentary (?disseminated?) and volcanic (?epithermal?) rock-hosted gold-silver mineralization revealed two distinct patterns that highlight two sets of crustal-scale geologic features that likely control the regional distribution of these deposit types. The weights of evidence method is a probability-based technique for mapping mineral potential using the spatial distribution of known mineral occurrences. Mineral potential maps predicting the distribution of gold-silver-bearing occurrences were generated from structural, geochemical, geomagnetic, gravimetric, lithologic, and lithotectonic-related deposit-indicator factors. The maps successfully predicted nearly 70% of the total number of known occurrences, including ~83% of sedimentary and ~60% of volcanic rock-hosted types. Sedimentary and volcanic rockhosted mineral potential maps showed high spatial correlation (an area cross-tabulation agreement of 85% and 73%, respectively) with expert-delineated mineral permissive tracts. In blind tests, the sedimentary and volcanic rock-hosted mineral potential maps predicted 10 out of 12 and 5 out of 5 occurrences, respectively. The key mineral predictor factors, in order of importance, were determined to be: geology (including lithology, structure, and lithotectonic terrane), geochemistry (indication of alteration), and geophysics. Areas of elevated sedimentary rock-hosted mineral potential are generally confined to central, north-central, and north-eastern Nevada. These areas form a conspicuous ?V?-shape pattern that is coincident with the Battle Mountain-Eureka (Cortez) and Carlin mineral trends and a segment of the Roberts Mountain thrust front, which bridges the southern ends of the trends. This pattern appears to delineate two well-defined, sub-parallel, northwest?southeast-trending crustal-scale structural zones. These features, here termed the ?Carlin? and ?Cortez? structural zones, are believed to control the regional-scale distribution of the sedimentary rock-hosted occurrences. Mineralizing processes were focused along these structural zones and significant ore deposits exist where they intersect other tectonic zones, favorable host rock-types, and (or) where appropriate physio-chemical conditions were present. The origin and age of the Carlin and Cortez structural zones are not well constrained, however, they are considered to be transcurrent features representing a long-lived, deep-crustal or mantle-rooted zone of weakness. Areas of elevated volcanic rock-hosted mineral potential are principally distributed along two broad and diffuse belts that trend (1) northwest-southeast across southwestern Nevada, parallel to the Sierra Nevada, and (2) northeast-southwest across northern Nevada, extending diagonally from the Sierra Nevada to southern Idaho. The first belt corresponds to the Walker Lane shear zone, a wide region of complex strike-slip faulting. The second, here termed the ?Humboldt shear(?) zone?, may represent a structural zone of transcurrent movement. Together, the Walker Lane and Humboldt shear(?) zones are believed to control the regional-scale distribution of volcanic rock-hosted occurrences. Volcanic rock-hosted mineralization was closely tied to the southward and westward migration of Tertiary magmatism across the region (which may have been mantle plume-driven). Both magmatic and mineralizing processes were localized and concentrated along these structural zones. The Humboldt shear(?) zone may have also affected the distribution of sedimentary rock-hosted mineralization along the Battle Mountain?Eureka (C

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Mineral potential modelling of gold and silver mineralization in the Nevada Great Basin - a GIS-based analysis using weights of evidence
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
448 p.