This report tests the usefulness of airborne time-domain electromagnetic (TEM) data on three mineral-resource-related issues: (1) to test whether known mineral deposits at or near the surface display any signal in the TEM data; 2) determine whether TEM data can be used to locate bedrock concealed by basin fill; and (3) if the exposed mineral deposits display a signal in the TEM data, to determine if whether deposits are recognizable at depth in outcropping bedrock or in bedrock concealed beneath basin fill. Because Earth‘s total-intensity magnetic field data are also acquired with the TEM data, these data are included in the analysis.
The Cottonwood Canyon area in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, contains several polymetallic vein deposits, including those of the Tyndall, Salero, and Wrightson mining districts, all of which have had significant mineral production. Polymetallic vein deposits, which generally consist of veins of disseminated metallic minerals, commonly exhibit a response to electrical geophysical methods. Also, on the basis of other studies, the conditions that produced the polymetallic vein mineralization in the region are believed to extend offshore into the bedrock concealed by basin fill.
The polymetallic vein deposits of the Cottonwood Canyon area all display a geophysical signature in the TEM data. These deposits occur in bedrock that has, in general, a very low resistivity. The polymetallic vein deposits are associated with high-conductivity regions that extend from deep in the bedrock to the surface. These high-conductivity regions can be quite narrow (100 m) or quite wide (1 km); most are relatively narrow. Every known mineral deposit or prospect is associated with a high-conductivity feature. High-conductivity regions can also occur without an association with known mineral deposits.
Airborne TEM data appear to be able to locate the basin fill/bedrock contact beneath basin fill. The basin fill (both dry and saturated) is generally more conductive than the bedrock. The low conductivity of the bedrock ensures that no signal from the bedrock is received from under the basin fill in most places. Therefore, in most areas of basin fill, the bedrock is interpreted to be the bottom of the signal in the conductivity-depth transforms (CDTs). Although the CDTs locate the basin-fill/bedrock contact, on the basis of a comparison with a recent report, they mostly overstate its depth by a factor of at least 2.
Because CDTs based on airborne TEM data do not see into bedrock below basin fill, it is impossible to detect mineralization in the bedrock concealed by such fill. Although the geophysical signature of polymetallic vein deposits is seen at depth in outcropping bedrock, the existence of this geophysical signal does not guarantee the occurrence of polymetallic vein deposits.