Analysis of magnetotelluric profile data from the Ruby Mountains metamorphic core complex and southern Carlin Trend region, Nevada

Open-File Report 2002-214

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We have collected about 150 magnetotelluric (MT) soundings in northeastern Nevada in the region of the Ruby Mountains metamorphic core complex uplift and southern Carlin mineral trend, in an effort to illuminate controls on core complex evolution and deposition of world-class gold deposits. The region has experienced a broad range of tectonic events including several periods of compressional and extensional deformation, which have contributed to the total expression of electrical resistivity. Most of the soundings are in three east-west profiles across increasing degrees of core uplift to the north (Bald Mountain, Harrison Pass and Secret Pass latitudes). Two shorter lines cross a prominent east-west structure to the north of the northern profile. MT impedance tensor and vertical magnetic field rotations imply a N-NNE average regional geoelectric strike, similar to surface geologic trends. Model resistivity cross sections were derived using a 2-D inversion algorithm, which damps departures of model parameters from an a priori structure, emphasizing the transverse magnetic (TM) mode and vertical magnetic field data. Geological interpretation of the resistivity combines previous seismic, potential field and isotope models, structural and petrological models for regional compression and extension, and detailed structural/stratigraphic interpretations incorporating drilling for petroleum and mineral exploration. To first order, the resistivity structure is one of a moderately conductive, Phanerozoic sedimentary section fundamentally disrupted by intrusion and uplift of resistive crystalline rocks. Late Devonian and early Mississippian shales of the Pilot and Chainman Formations together form an important conductive marker sequence in the stratigraphy and show pronounced increases in conductance (conductivity-thickness product) from east to west. These increases in conductance are attributed to graphitization caused by Elko-Sevier era compressional shear deformation and possibly by intrusive heating. The resistive crystalline central massifs adjoin the host stratigraphy across crustal-scale, subvertical fault zones. These zones provide electric current pathways to the lower crust for heterogeneous, upper crustal induced current flow. Resistive core complex crust may be steeply bounded under the middle of the neighboring grabens and not deepen at a shallow angle to arbitrary distances to the west. The numerous crustal breaks imaged with MT may contribute to the low effective elastic thickness estimated regionally for the Great Basin and exemplify the mid-crustal, steeply dipping slip zones in which major earthquakes nucleate. An east-west oriented conductor in the crystalline upper crust spans the East Humboldt Range and northern Ruby Mountains. The conductor may be related to an inferred ArcheanProterozoic suture or nearby graphitic metasediments, with possible alteration by middle Tertiary magmatic activity. Lower crustal resistivity everywhere under the profiles is low and appears quasi one-dimensional. It is consistent with a low rock porosity (

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USGS Numbered Series
Analysis of magnetotelluric profile data from the Ruby Mountains metamorphic core complex and southern Carlin Trend region, Nevada
Series title:
Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center
50 p.