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Gold placer and Quaternary stratigraphy of the Jabal Mokhyat area, southern Najd Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Open-File Report 82-414

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Abstract

An ancient gold placer at Jabal Mokhyat (lat 20?12.2'N., long 43?28'E.), about 90 km east of Qalat Bishah in the southern Najd Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was studied in 1973. Seven hundred and twenty-eight samples in 25 measured sections were collected along trenches and pits 2.5 m in depth and 2,600 m in total length. Alluvium was thicker than the excavation depth along about 50 percent of the trench length. The average gold content was 4.4 mg per m3, and the highest grade trench contained 40 mg gold per m 3. Because fine particulate gold is rare in the alluvium, a few large particles, 1 to 5 mm in diameter, greatly affected the sampling results. The ancient placer diggings are in small headwater wadis distributed over a 30-km 2 area, and the total dug area is about 1.2 km2. The placer produced an estimated 50 kg of gold and was worked about 2,600 + 250 years ago. The potential for a present-day placer operation is small. The gold is sparsely distributed in locally derived, flood-deposited, immature gravels throughout a stratigraphic section that consists of 1) calichified, saprolitic bedrock of Precambrian age; 2) basal, intensely calichified, saprolitic gravel (0-3 m thick) of Pleistocene age; 3) disconformable, slightly consolidated gravel and sand (0-1 m thick) of late Pleistocene age containing sparse, disseminated caliche; 4) firm loessic silt (0-1 m thick) of early Holocene age; and 5) loose sand and gravel (0.3-1 m thick) of late Holocene age. The loessic silt accumulated during the Holocene pluvial. The top of the loessic silt unit is dated at about 6,000 years B.P. by using charcoal from hearths of ancient man. Following the Holocene pluvial, the climate became arid, and extreme desiccation resulted in abundant eolian sand that progressively diluted the late Holocene gravels. The remnants of the pre-Holocene stratigraphy suggest similar climatic cycles during the Pleistocene. Abundant, sparsely mineralized, gold-bearing quartz veins (0-1 m wide) were the source of the placer gold. These late Proterozoic veins have hydrothermally altered wall-rock zones (1-5 m wide). The veins are dispersed over an area of 50 km 2. Though many veins were prospected in ancient times and some were slightly worked, only the Mokhyat ancient mine, located on a quartz-vein zone 30 m wide by 200 m long, was extensively worked. The quartz contains chalcopyrite, galena, sphalerite, tetrahedrite, an unidentified bismuth mineral, and small amounts of dispersed gold. The fissure quartz veins lie at the complexly splayed, terminal end of a small northwest-trending Najd fault that elsewhere along strike has ii km of left-lateral displacement. Most large veins are in north-trending vertical fractures where the stresses were distributed along an older, north-trending structural grain in andesitic greenstone terrane. Subhorizontal fracture sets contain conspicuous, well-developed gold-bearing quartz veins and associated alteration zones. These attest to the shallowness and youthfulness of mineralization during latest Precambrian time. Late Precambrian granitic plutons (625-600 m.y. old) had been deeply eroded before the gold minerals were emplaced; hence, the gold is not related to granitic plutonism. Abundant, widely distributed diabasic dikes associated with the Najd faulting event of latest Precambrian age were probably the heat source for the hydrothermal convection system and possibly the source of the gold.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Gold placer and Quaternary stratigraphy of the Jabal Mokhyat area, southern Najd Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
82-414
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1981
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey,
Description:
76 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.