Big sagebrush - a cold-desert species that dominates the terrain over large parts of western United States - was sampled along several traverses that crossed thermally metamorphosed limestone, phyllitic shale, and schist of the Middle and Upper Cambrian Preble Formation that host skarn-, disseminated gold and silver-, and hot springs gold-type mineral occurrences. Patterns of detectable levels of gold (8 to 28 ppb or ng g-1) in ash of new growth were consistent with areas affected by known or suspected gold mineralization. Soils collected along one of the traverses where a selenium-indicator plant was common contained no gold above background levels of 2ppb, but were consistently high in As, Sb, and Zn, and several samples were unusually high in Se (maximum 11 ppm or ??g g-1). Sagebrush along this traverse contained Li at levels above norms for this species. We also found a puzzling geochemical anomaly at a site basinward from active hot springs along a range-front fault scarp. Sagebrush at this site contained a trace of gold and an unusually high concentration of Cd (13 ppm) and the soil had anomalous concentrations of Cd and Bi (3.2 and 6 ppm, respectively). The source of this anomaly could be either metal-rich waters from an irrigation ditch or leakage along a buried fault. Despite the limited nature of the study, we conclude that gold in sagebrush could be a cost-effective guide to drilling locations in areas where the geology seems favorable for disseminated and vein precious metals. ?? 1988.
Additional publication details
Gold and other metals in big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) as an exploration tool, Gold Run District, Humboldt County, Nevada