The geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and Landsat imagery of the Big Delta quadrangle, 16,335 km 2 in the Yukon-Tanana Upland of east-central Alaska, were investigated, and maps and reports were prepared by an interdisciplinary research team for the purpose of assessing the mineral potential. The quadrangle is dominantly a complex terrane of greenschist- to amphibolitefacies metamorphic rocks that have been intruded by Mesozoic and Tertiary dioritic to granitic rocks and are overlain by Tertiary sedimentary and volcanic rocks. Serpentinized peridotite and associated greenstone, graywacke, and chert crop out in some places.
The quadrangle is bisected by the northeastward-trending Shaw Creek fault, which, on the basis of aeromagnetic interpretation and geologic data, is postulated to have left-lateral offset of as much as 48 km. On the northwest side of the Shaw Creek fault, metamorphic rock units have a northwesterly regional trend, and the oldest rocks could be Precambrian in age. Gneiss and schist in the southwestern part of the quadrangle are derived from both igneous and sedimentary protoliths, some of which may be as old as Precambrian. Other rock units, which include calcareous schist and thin-layered marble, black quartzite, semischist, and cataclastic rocks, are considered to be of probable Paleozoic age, although no fossils have yet been found in these rocks. Radiolarians and conodonts in chert associated with greenstone and ultramafic rocks indicate that the chert is of Permian age.
Potassium-argon ages on igneous rocks of the Big Delta quadrangle fall into two groups: those with biotite, muscovite, hornblende, and sanidine ages between 50 to 69 m.y.; and those with biotite, hornblende, and sanidine ages between 88 to 105 m.y. The younger of these two groups appears to indicate the time of a plutonic event marked by intrusion of mostly small, isolated plutons, including hypabyssal stocks, and the eruption of silicic volcanic rocks. Most of the plutons are quartz monzonite to granite.
The older group of ages (88 to 105 m.y.) on igneous rocks includes ages on the largest plutons of the Yukono-Tanana Upland. The rocks range from diorite to quartz monzonite in composition. The potassium-argon ages on the metamorphic rocks of the Big Delta quadrangle, like those obtained elsewhere in the Yukon-Tanana Upland, appear to have been partly or completely reset by subsequent thermal events.
Vein and placer gold deposits have been mined in the Big Delta quadrangle, and although indications of mineralization are widespread, no other mineral deposits have yet been identified. The geologic, geochemical, and geophysical data are compatible with several types of deposits, including porphyry copper, massive sulfide, and skarn deposits. In certain aspects, the geology of the quadrangle is similar to areas in the eastern part of the Yukon-Tanana Upland and Canada where mineral deposits are known.