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Magmatism and Epithermal Gold-Silver Deposits of the Southern Ancestral Cascade Arc, Western Nevada and Eastern California

Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
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Abstract

Many epithermal gold-silver deposits are temporally and spatially associated with late Oligocene to Pliocene magmatism of the southern ancestral Cascade arc in western Nevada and eastern California. These deposits, which include both quartz-adularia (low- and intermediate-sulfidation; Comstock Lode, Tonopah, Bodie) and quartz-alunite (high-sulfidation; Goldfield, Paradise Peak) types, were major producers of gold and silver. Ancestral Cascade arc magmatism preceded that of the modern High Cascades arc and reflects subduction of the Farallon plate beneath North America. Ancestral arc magmatism began about 45 Ma, continued until about 3 Ma, and extended from near the Canada-United States border in Washington southward to about 250 km southeast of Reno, Nevada. The ancestral arc was split into northern and southern segments across an inferred tear in the subducting slab between Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak in northern California. The southern segment extends between 42°N in northern California and 37°N in western Nevada and was active from about 30 to 3 Ma. It is bounded on the east by the northeast edge of the Walker Lane. Ancestral arc volcanism represents an abrupt change in composition and style of magmatism relative to that in central Nevada. Large volume, caldera-forming, silicic ignimbrites associated with the 37 to 19 Ma ignimbrite flareup are dominant in central Nevada, whereas volcanic centers of the ancestral arc in western Nevada consist of andesitic stratovolcanoes and dacitic to rhyolitic lava domes that mostly formed between 25 and 4 Ma. Both ancestral arc and ignimbrite flareup magmatism resulted from rollback of the shallowly dipping slab that began about 45 Ma in northeast Nevada and migrated south-southwest with time. Most southern segment ancestral arc rocks have oxidized, high potassium, calc-alkaline compositions with silica contents ranging continuously from about 55 to 77 wt%. Most lavas are porphyritic and contain coarse plagioclase ± hornblende, biotite, and pyroxene phenocrysts. Seven epithermal gold-silver deposits with >1 Moz gold production, several large elemental sulfur deposits, and many large areas (10s to >100 km2) of hydrothermally altered rocks are present in the southern ancestral arc, especially south of latitude 40°N. These deposits are principally hosted by intermediate to silicic lava dome complexes; only a few deposits are associated with mafic- to intermediate-composition stratovolcanoes. Large deposits are most abundant and well developed in volcanic fields whose evolution spanned millions of years. Most deposits are hundreds of thousands to several million years younger than their host rocks, although some quartz-alunite deposits are essentially coeval with their host rocks. Variable composition and thickness of crustal basement is the primary control on mineralization along the length of the southern ancestral arc; most deposits and large alteration zones are localized in basement rock terranes with a strong continental affinity, either along the edge of the North American craton (Goldfield, Tonopah) or in an accreted terrane with continental affinities (Walker Lake terrane; Aurora, Bodie, Comstock Lode, Paradise Peak). Epithermal deposits and quartz-alunite alteration zones are scarce to absent in the northern part of the ancestral arc above an accreted island arc (Black Rock terrane) or unknown basement rocks (Modoc Plateau). Walker Lane structures and areas that underwent large magnitude extension during the Late Cenozoic (areas with Oligocene-early Miocene volcanic rocks dipping >40°) do not provide regional control on mineralization. Instead, these features may have served as local-scale conduits for mineralizing fluids.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Magmatism and Epithermal Gold-Silver Deposits of the Southern Ancestral Cascade Arc, Western Nevada and Eastern California
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of Nevada
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 35 p.
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Larger Work Title 2015 Symposium on New Concepts and Discoveries
Conference Title 2015 Symposium on New Concepts and Discoveries
Conference Location Reno/Sparks, Nevada
Country United States
Other Geospatial Eastern California and Western Nevada
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N