This report describes the results of study and geologic mapping (1:12,000) in the 70-square-mile Plumtree area in the northeastern part of the Spruce Pine pegmatite district, on the Blue Ridge upland in western North Carolina. The district has been the chief domestic source of feldspar and sheet mica. The mining belt just west of the Blue Ridge Front trends northeast and is 25 miles long and 10 miles wide. The center of the Plumtree area lies 10 miles northeast of Spruce Pine pegmatite district, on the Blue Ridge upland in western North Carolina. The district has been the chief domestic source of feldspar and sheet mica. The mining belt just west of the Blue Ridge Front trends northeast and is 25 miles long and 10 miles wide. The center of the Plumtree area lies 10 miles northeast of Spruce Pine and includes parts of Mitchell and Avery Counties shown on the portions of the 7.5-minute Spruce Pine, Linville Falls, Newland, North Carolina, and Carvers Gap, North Carolina and Tennessee quadrangle.
The topography varies from rugged mountains to rounded or flat topped hills near the entrenched, meandering master streams. Old erosion surfaces are approximately 600,1,100, 1,500, and 2,500 feet above the present master stream level. The area is in late youth or early maturity after rejuvenation..
The regionally metamorphosed rocks of the amophibolite facies form three mappable units: mica gneiss, mica schist, and hornblende rock. These rocks, perhaps of Precambrian age, are intimately interlayered with thicknesses of the individual layers ranging from less than one inch to several tons of feet. Field relationships and chemical data suggest that the mica (Carolina-type) rocks were derived from sandstones, graywackes, and shales and that the hornblende-rich (Roan-type) layers were derived from impure carbonate rocks.
The igneous rocks include alaskite and associated pegmatite of early Paleozoic age (?), dunite and associated soapstone of a prepegmatite age, and a few diabasic dikes of post-pegmatite age (Triassic?).
The alaskite and pegmatite have similar bulk compositions, notably low in iron (0.3 percent). The major constituents in order of decreasing abundance are plagioclase, perthitic microcline, quartz, and muncovite. All of these minerals, as well as clay deposits derived from the weathering of alaskite under old terraces, have economic value. The zoned pegmatites contain fewer zones which are less complex mineralogically than those in the pegmatites of many other areas. These essentially unmetamorphosed bodies were intruded approximately at the peak of the regional metamorphism. Their emplacement was controlled by local structure and rock type. The source of this igneous material may have been the mobilized portions of the Cranberry gneiss which underlies the area.
The dunite bodies were intruded early in the metamorphic cycle. The bodies are commonly zoned: from the wall rock inwards (1) talc-antrophyllite-serpentine fringe, (3) serpentinized dunite, (3) granular olivine core. Dunite, chromite, vermiculite, and anthophyllite are the major economic commodities. Extensive hydrothermal alteration of dunite bodies produced soapstone.
The area is the northeast end of a southwest plunging synclinorium about 20 miles wide with the steeper limb on the northwest side. There are three structural zones: zone I on the northwest is characterized by the northeast-trending isoclinal folds with steep southeast dips; zone II on the southwest includes an area of rocks with low and variable dip; zone III is the complex central core. In the extreme northeast zones I and II have an indistinct boundary where they coalesce along the rim of the synclinorium. Six stratigraphic units are exposed totaling approximately 10,500 feet of metamorphic rocks.
Small scale structural features include a foliation, and a lineation in the planes of the foliation. Minor folding reflects the trends of the major structures. There are randomly orient