The Great Basin physiographic province covers a large part of the western United States and contains one of the world's leading gold-producing areas, the Carlin Trend. In the Great Basin, many sedimentary-rock-hosted disseminated gold deposits occur along such linear mineral-occurrence trends. The distribution and genesis of these deposits is not fully understood, but most models indicate that regional tectonic structures play an important role in their spatial distribution. Over 100 magnetotelluric (MT) soundings were acquired between 1994 and 2001 by the U.S. Geological Survey to investigate crustal structures that may underlie the linear trends in north-central Nevada. MT sounding data were used to map changes in electrical resistivity as a function of depth that are related to subsurface lithologic and structural variations. Two-dimensional (2-D) resistivity modeling of the MT data reveals primarily northerly and northeasterly trending narrow 2-D conductors (1 to 30 ohm-m) extending to mid-crustal depths (5-20 km) that are interpreted to be major crustal fault zones. There are also a few westerly and northwesterly trending 2-D conductors. However, the great majority of the inferred crustal fault zones mapped using MT are perpendicular or oblique to the generally accepted trends. The correlation of strike of three crustal fault zones with the strike of the Carlin and Getchell trends and the Alligator Ridge district suggests they may have been the root fluid flow pathways that fed faults and fracture networks at shallower levels where gold precipitated in favorable host rocks. The abundant northeasterly crustal structures that do not correlate with the major trends may be structures that are open to fluid flow at the present time.
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USGS Numbered Series
Major Crustal Fault Zone Trends and Their Relation to Mineral Belts in the North-Central Great Basin, Nevada