Geochemical exploration for mineralized breccia pipes in northern Arizona, U.S.A.

Applied Geochemistry


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Thousands of solution-collapse breccia pipe crop out in the canyons and on the plateaus of northern Arizona. Over 80 of these are known to contain U or Cu mineralized rock. The high-grade U ore associated with potentially economic concentrations of Ag, Pb, Zn, Cu, Co and Ni in some of these pipes has continued to stimulate mining and exploration activity in northern Arizona, despite periods of depressed U prices. Large expanses of northern Arizona are comprised of undissected high plateaus; recognition of pipes in these areas is particularly important because mining access to the plateaus is far better than to the canyons. The small size of the pipes, generally less than 600 ft (200 m) in diameter, and limited rock outcrop on the plateaus, compounds the recognition problem. Although the breccia pipes, which bottom in the Mississippian Redwall Limestone, are occasionally exposed on the plateaus as circular features, so are unmineralized near-surface collapse features that bottom in the Permian Kaibab and Toroweap Formations. The distinction between these two classes of circular features is critical during exploration for this unique type of U deposit. Various geochemical and geophysical exploration methods have been tested over these classes of collapse features. Because of the small size of the deposits, and the low-level geochemical signatures in the overlying rock that are rarely dispersed for distances in excess of several hundred feet, most reconnaissance geochemical surveys, such as hydrogeochemistry or stream sediment, will not delineete mineralized pipes. Several types of detailed geochemical surveys made over collapse features, located through examination of aerial photographs and later field mapping, have been successful at delineating collapse features from the surrounding host rock: (1) Rock geochemistry commonly shows low level Ag, As, Ba, Co, Cu, Ni, Pb, Se and Zn anomalies over mineralized breccia pipes; (2) Soil surveys appear to have the greatest potential for distinguishing mineralized breccia pipes from the surrounding terrane. Although the soil anomalies are only twice the background concentrations for most anomalous elements, traverses made over collapse features show consistent enrichment inside of the feature as compared to outside; (3) B. Cereus surveys over a known mineralized pipe show significantly more anomalous samples collected from within the ring fracture than from outside of the breccia pipe; (4) Helium soil-gas surveys were made over 7 collapse features with discouraging results from 5 of the 7 features. Geophysical surveys indicate that scaler audio-magnetotelluric (AMT) and E-field telluric profile data show diagnostic conductivity differences over mineralized pipes as compared to the surrounding terrane. These surveys, coupled with the geochemical surveys conducted as detailed studies over features mapped by field and aerial photograph examination, can be a significant asset in the selection of potential breccia pipes for drilling. ?? 1986.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geochemical exploration for mineralized breccia pipes in northern Arizona, U.S.A.
Series title Applied Geochemistry
Volume 1
Issue 4
Year Published 1986
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Applied Geochemistry
First page 469
Last page 485