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Geology, mineralization, and hydrothermal alteration and relationships to acidic and metal-bearing surface waters in the Palmetto Gulch area, southwestern Colorado

Open-File Report 2002-275

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Abstract

The Palmetto Gulch area is affected by low pH and metal-bearing drainage from abandoned mines, and perhaps, from natural weathering around vein zones. To investigate these anthropogenic and potential natural sources of acidity and metals, we mapped the geology, veins, and hydrothermally altered areas; conducted mine dump leachate studies; and collected reconnaissance water quality data. Several small abandoned mines are present in the Palmetto Gulch area that produced small amounts of relatively high-grade silver ore from fault-controlled polymetallic vein deposits. These veins are hosted in lavas, breccias, and related volcaniclastic sediments that ponded within the 28 Ma San Juan-Uncompahgre caldera complex. These rock units generally have conformable contacts and have shallow dips to the northwest. Lava flows of pyroxene andesite, which host the Roy-Pray mine, are massive near their base and typically grade upward into tightly jointed rock with 2-15 cm joint spacing. In general, most hydrothermally altered rock within the Palmetto Gulch area is restricted to envelopes surrounding the mineralized veins and faults. Composite zones of vein-related alteration vary from about 50 to 80 m wide along the high ridgelines and narrow to less than 10 to 15 m beneath an elevation of about 5,462 m. Where unaffected by surficial oxidation, these altered zones contain as much as 7 to 10 volume percent finely-disseminated pyrite. The majority of rocks in the area were affected by regional and vein-related propylitic alteration. These greenish-colored rocks have alteration products consisting of chlorite, illite, and calcite; and feldspars are typically weakly altered. Most of these rocks have detectable amounts of calcite, while as much as 11 percent by weight was detected in samples collected during this study. The Palmetto Gulch area is affected by low pH and metal-bearing drainage from abandoned mines, and perhaps, from natural weathering around vein zones. To investigate these anthropogenic and potential natural sources of acidity and metals, we mapped the geology, veins, and hydrothermally altered areas; conducted mine dump leachate studies; and collected reconnaissance water quality data. Several small abandoned mines are present in the Palmetto Gulch area that produced small amounts of relatively high-grade silver ore from fault-controlled polymetallic vein deposits. These veins are hosted in lavas, breccias, and related volcaniclastic sediments that ponded within the 28 Ma San Juan-Uncompahgre caldera complex. These rock units generally have conformable contacts and have shallow dips to the northwest. Lava flows of pyroxene andesite, which host the Roy-Pray mine, are massive near their base and typically grade upward into tightly jointed rock with 2-15 cm joint spacing. In general, most hydrothermally altered rock within the Palmetto Gulch area is restricted to envelopes surrounding the mineralized veins and faults. Composite zones of vein-related alteration vary from about 50 to 80 m wide along the high ridgelines and narrow to less than 10 to 15 m beneath an elevation of about 5,462 m. Where unaffected by surficial oxidation, these altered zones contain as much as 7 to 10 volume percent finely-disseminated pyrite. The majority of rocks in the area were affected by regional and vein-related propylitic alteration. These greenish-colored rocks have alteration products consisting of chlorite, illite, and calcite; and feldspars are typically weakly altered. Most of these rocks have detectable amounts of calcite, while as much as 11 percent by weight was detected in samples collected during this study.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Geology, mineralization, and hydrothermal alteration and relationships to acidic and metal-bearing surface waters in the Palmetto Gulch area, southwestern Colorado
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2002-275
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2002
Language:
ENGLISH
Description:
35 p., 1 over-size sheet.