In the summer of 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began an exploration geochemical research study over the Pebble porphyry copper-gold-molydenum (Cu-Au-Mo) deposit in southwest Alaska. The Pebble deposit is extremely large and is almost entirely concealed by tundra, glacial deposits, and post-Cretaceous volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks. The deposit is presently being explored by Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd., and Anglo-American LLC. The USGS undertakes unbiased, broad-scale mineral resource assessments of government lands to provide Congress and citizens with information on national mineral endowment. Research on known deposits is also done to refine and better constrain methods and deposit models for the mineral resource assessments. The Pebble deposit was chosen for this study because it is concealed by surficial cover rocks, it is relatively undisturbed (except for exploration company drill holes), it is a large mineral system, and it is fairly well constrained at depth by the drill hole geology and geochemistry. The goals of the USGS study are (1) to determine whether the concealed deposit can be detected with surface samples, (2) to better understand the processes of metal migration from the deposit to the surface, and (3) to test and develop methods for assessing mineral resources in similar concealed terrains.
This report presents analytical results for geochemical samples collected in 2007 from the Pebble deposit and surrounding environs. The analytical data are presented digitally both as an integrated Microsoft 2003 Access? database and as Microsoft 2003 Excel? files.
The Pebble deposit is located in southwestern Alaska on state lands about 30 km (18 mi) northwest of the village of Illiamna and 320 km (200 mi) southwest of Anchorage (fig. 1). Elevations in the Pebble area range from 287 m (940 ft) at Frying Pan Lake just south of the deposit to 1146 m (3760 ft) on Kaskanak Mountain about 5 km (5 mi) to the west. The deposit is in an area of relatively subdued topographic relief with an elevation of around 300 m (1000 ft). This portion of Alaska is part of the subarctic regime mountains division, Yukon intermontane plateaus-tayga-meadow province ecoregion, as defined by Bailey (U.S. Forest Service, 2007).
Between June 28th and July 12th, 2007, scientists from the USGS collected soil, water, stream sediment, vegetation, heavy-mineral concentrate, till, and rock samples from the deposit area. This report contains analytical results for soil, water, stream sediment, and vegetation samples. Analyses for the heavy-mineral concentrate, till, and rock samples are still in progress. The sampling was undertaken during relatively dry and stable weather conditions. Only minor scattered rain showers occurred during the sampling period, so surface conditions were largely unaffected by weather. The predominant sample media collected were soils and surface waters. Soil and water (mostly from ponds and springs, some from small creeks) samples were collected along a single 7.8 km-long (4.8 mi) east-west traverse across the Pebble East and Pebble West zones and from more distal background areas around Koktuli and Kaskanak Mountains. Sample sites are shown on figure 2 and plate 1, and locality coordinates are provided in the accompanying Access and Excel files named FieldSite.
Water samples were analyzed by USGS laboratories with one subset analyzed by Activation Laboratories (Actlabs), as indicated below. Soils and stream sediments were analyzed for their total content by SGS Minerals Services under a contract with the USGS. Soil samples were also leached by selected partial-extraction leaching procedures and then analyzed by several commercial laboratories, as described below. Vegetation samples were analyzed as indicated below.