Geochemical Exploration Techniques Applicable in the Search for Copper Deposits

Professional Paper 907-B




Geochemical exploration is an important part of copper-resource evaluation. A large number of geochemical exploration techniques, both proved and untried, are available to the geochemist to use in the search for new copper deposits. Analyses of whole-rock samples have been used in both regional and local geochemical exploration surveys in the search for copper. Analyses of mineral separates, such as biotite, magnetite, and sulfides, have also been used. Analyses of soil samples are widely used in geochemical exploration, especially for localized surveys. It is important to distinguish between residual and transported soil types. Orientation studies should always be conducted prior to a geochemical investigation in a given area in order to determine the best soil horizon and the best size of soil material for sampling in that area. Silty frost boils, caliche, and desert varnish are specialized types of soil samples that might be useful sampling media. Soil gas is a new and potentially valuable geochemical sampling medium, especially in exploring for buried mineral deposits in arid regions. Gaseous products in samples of soil may be related to base-metal deposits and include mercury vapor, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon oxysulfide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, the noble gases, the halogens, and many hydrocarbon compounds. Transported materials that have been used in geochemical sampling programs include glacial float boulders, glacial till, esker gravels, stream sediments, stream-sediment concentrates, and lake sediments. Stream-sediment sampling is probably the most widely used and most successful geochemical exploration technique. Hydrogeochemical exploration programs have utilized hot- and cold-spring waters and their precipitates as well as waters from lakes, streams, and wells. Organic gel found in lakes and at stream mouths is an unproved sampling medium. Suspended material and dissolved gases in any type of water may also be useful media. Samples of ice and snow have been used for limited geochemical surveys. Both geobotanical and biogeochemical surveys have been successful in locating copper deposits in many parts of the world. Micro-organisms, including bacteria and algae, are other unproved media that should be studied. Animals can be used in geochemical-prospecting programs. Dogs have been used quite successfully to sniff out hidden and exposed sulfide minerals. Tennite mounds are commonly composed of subsurface material, but have not as yet proved to be useful in locating buried mineral deposits. Animal tissue and waste products are essentially unproved but potentially valuable sampling media. Knowledge of the location of areas where trace-element-associated diseases in animals and man are endemic as well as a better understanding of these diseases, may aid in identifying regions that are enriched in or depleted of various elements, including copper. Results of analyses of gases in the atmosphere are proving valuable in mineral-exploration surveys. Studies involving metallic compounds exhaled by plants into the atmosphere, and of particulate matter suspended in the atmosphere are reviewed these methods may become important in the future. Remote-sensing techniques are useful for making indirect measurements of geochemical responses. Two techniques applicable to geochemical exploration are neutron-activation analysis and gamma-ray spectrometry. Aerial photography is especially useful in vegetation surveys. Radar imagery is an unproved but potentially valuable method for use in studies of vegetation in perpetually clouded regions. With the advent of modern computers, many new techniques, such as correlation analysis, regression analysis, discriminant analysis, factor analysis, cluster analysis, trend-surface analysis, and moving-average analysis can be applied to geochemical data sets. Selective use of these techniques can provide new insights into the interpretatio

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USGS Numbered Series
Geochemical Exploration Techniques Applicable in the Search for Copper Deposits
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Professional Paper
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U.S. Geological Survey
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U.S. Geological Survey
iv, 26 p.