Assessment method for epithermal gold deposits in Northeast Washington State using weights-of-evidence GIS modeling

Open-File Report 2001-501
By: , and 



The weights-of-evidence analysis, a quantitative mineral resource mapping tool, is used to delineate favorable areas for epithermal gold deposits and to predict future exploration activity of the mineral industry for similar deposits in a four-county area (222 x 277 km), including the Okanogan and Colville National Forests of northeastern Washington. Modeling is applied in six steps: (1) building a spatial digital database, (2) extracting predictive evidence for a particular deposit, based on an exploration model, (3) calculating relative weights for each predictive map, (4) combining the geologic evidence maps to predict the location of undiscovered mineral resources and (5) measuring the intensity of recent exploration activity by use of mining claims on federal lands, and (6) combining mineral resource and exploration activity into an assessment model of future mining activity. The analysis is accomplished on a personal computer using ArcView GIS platform with Spatial Analyst and Weights-of-Evidence software. In accord with the descriptive model for epithermal gold deposits, digital geologic evidential themes assembled include lithologic map units, thrust faults, normal faults, and igneous dikes. Similarly, geochemical evidential themes include placer gold deposits and gold and silver analyses from stream sediment (silt) samples from National Forest lands. Fifty mines, prospects, or occurrences of epithermal gold deposits, the training set, define the appropriate a really-associated terrane. The areal (or spatial) correlation of each evidential theme with the training set yield predictor theme maps for lithology, placer sites and normal faults. The weights-of-evidence analysis disqualified the thrust fault, dike, and gold and silver silt analyses evidential themes because they lacked spatial correlation with the training set. The decision to accept or reject evidential themes as predictors is assisted by considering probabilistic data consisting of weights and contrast values calculated for themes according to areal correlation with the training sites. Predictor themes having acceptable weights and contrast values are combined into a preliminary model to predict the locations of undiscovered epithermal gold deposits. This model facilitates ranking of tracts as non-permissive, permissive or favorable categories based on exclusionary, passive, and active criteria through evaluation of probabilistic data provided by interaction of predictor themes. The method is very similar to the visual inspection method of drawing conclusions from anomalies on a manually overlain system of maps. This method serves as a model for future mineral assessment procedures because of its objective nature. To develop a model to predict future exploration activity, the locations of lode mining claims were summarized for 1980, 1985, 1990, and 1996. Land parcels containing historic claims were identified either as those with mining claims present in 1980 or valid claims present in 1985. Current claim parcels were identified as those containing valid lode claims in either 1990 or 1996. A consistent parcel contains both historic and current claims. The epithermal gold and mining claim activity models were combined into an assessment (or mineral resource-activity) model to assist in land use decisions by providing a prediction of mineral exploration activity on federal land in the next decade. Ranks in the assessment model are: (1) no activity, (2) low activity, (3) low to moderate activity, (4) moderate activity and (5) high activity.
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment method for epithermal gold deposits in Northeast Washington State using weights-of-evidence GIS modeling
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2001-501
DOI 10.3133/ofr01501
Edition -
Year Published 2001
Language ENGLISH
Description 52 p.
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