This report summarizes the geology of an area of some 6000 square kilometers in the northern part of the Central Cordillera of the Colombian Andes. The area, in north-central Department of Antioquia, was mapped between 1964 and 1968 as part of the Inventario Minero Nacional (IMN) project. Mineral resources are summarized within a larger area, designated as subzone ILK of IMN Zone If, which comprises almost 22,000 sq. kin, including the area mapped geologically by IMN and additional areas mapped by other agencies.
The oldest formation is a micaceous paragneiss of early Paleozoic or possibly late Precambrian age. A thick geosynclinal sedimentary series accumulated during the Paleozoic Era and became regionally metamorphosed to greenschist (locally amphibolite) facies during the Permian or early Triassic; these schists and gneisses are designated collectively as the Valdivia Group. The Permian(?) orogenic episode included intrusion of concordant syntectonic plutons, mostly of tonalitic composition. Rocks of unequivocal Triassic or Jurassic age are not recognized.
The Cretaceous is well represented by both igneous and sedimentary assemblages. Eugeosynclinal alpine ophiolites comprising submarine basalt flows and numerous intrusions of gabbro and serpentinite are prominent in the Lower Cretaceous, together with flysch composed of marine shale and lesser sandstone and conglomerate. The Upper Cretaceous is represented along the west border of the mapped area by submarine basalt flows and pyroclastic rocks, locally Interbedded with fine-grained clastic sedimentary beds, and lenses of dark laminated chert, at least part of which is radiolarian. The Late Cretaceous was marked by an orogenic event that profoundly folded and faulted all rocks and in the Central Cordillera caused low-grade metamorphism, the overprint of which is hardly observable in pre-Cretaceous rocks elsewhere. The Late Cretaceous orogeny culminated with discordant intrusion of the epizonal tonalitic Antioquian batholith. Displacement along the great Romeral wrench fault may have begun in the Cretaceous.
Plutonism continued into the Cenozoic, exemplified by the hornblende-diorite Sabanalarga pluton. Intermontane basins were filled with molasse derived from the erosion of adjacent highlands; Tertiary sedimentation in marshy areas included organic carboniferous matter subsequently converted to lignite or subbituminous coal. The Sabanalarga fault system originated in the Late Tertiary; intermittent displacement continued on the older wrench faults such as the Romeral. Epeirogenic uplift, which probably began in the Pliocene and continued through the Pleistocene and Holocene, brought on renewed erosion which has sculptured the mountains into their present form.
Mineral resources in subzone IIA are varied but not of outstanding importance. Gold and silver mining, significant in past centuries, is minor today. Ferruginous laterite on serpentinite once considered as a potential source of iron ore is not economically exploitable. IMN has explored nickeliferous laterite at the extreme northwest corner of subzone IIA; this is a potential resource, exploitable only after exhaustion of the larger and richer nickel laterite deposit at Cerro Matoso, farther to the north and outside the boundaries of Zone If. Known deposits of mercury, chromium, manganese, and copper are small, with limited economic potential. Nonmetallic resources include raw materials for cement, including portland cement. Saprolite clay is widely used in making common red brick and tile, still a dominant construction material in all but the most modern multistory buildings. Aggregate materials are varied and abundant. Kaolin of good quality near La Union is important as a ceramic raw mineral filler. Tertiary subbituminous coal beds are an important energy resource in western subzone IIA, and have a good potential for greater development. Deposits of sodic feldspar, talc, decorative stone, and silica a
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USGS Numbered Series
Geology and mineral resources of central Antioquia Department (Zone IIA), Colombia