The Tomichi mining district is on the western slope of the Continental Divide near the southern end of the Sawatch Range in southeastern Gunnison County, Colorado. The most productive part of the Tomichi district was the Whitepine area. It is estimated that since the discovery of ore in 1879 the area has produced approximately $7,000,000, principally in lead and zinc, with lesser amounts of silver, copper, and gold.
Geologically, the Whitepine area is a faulted syncline of Paleozoic rocks that was intruded by Tertiary igneous rocks. The oldest rock of the area is the Silver Plume granite of pre-Cambrian age. Deposited upon this successively were the Sawatch quartzite (Late Cambrian), Manitou dolomite (Early Ordovician), Harding quartzite (Middle Ordovician), Fremont dolomite (Lade Ordovician), Chaffee formation (Late Devonian), Leadville limestone (Late Mississippian), and Beldon shale (Late Pennsylvanian); a total thickness of about 1,450 feet.
During the Laramide Revolution, the sedimentary rocks were folded into a broad northward-plunging syncline, faulted, and intruded by a series of igneous rocks. The igneous rocks, in order of relative age from oldest to youngest, are: a rhyolite stock, the Princeton quartz monzonite batholith, quartz monzonite or quartz latite porphyry dikes, and rhyolite or pitchstone porphyry dikes.
The ore deposits of the Whitepine area may be classified into replacement deposits, vein deposits, and contact metamorphic deposits. The replacement deposits may be further subdivided into deposits along faults and bedded deposits. Of the types of deposits, the most productive have been the replacement deposits along faults. The major replacement deposits along faults are those of the Akron, Morning Star, and Victor mines. The ore deposits of these mines are in the foot wall of the Star faults in the Akron mine in the Manitou dolomite and in the Morning Star and Victor mines in the Leadville limestone. The chief bedded replacement deposits are those of the Erie, North Star, and Tenderfoot mines. In the Erie mine the ore deposits are in the Leadville limestone at, or just below, its contact with the Belden shale. In the North Star and Tenderfoot mines the ore bodies are in the Manitou dolomite along the crest of an anticline and the trough of a syncline, respectively. The vein deposits occur in the Silver Plume granite, Princeton quartz monzonite, and Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The only vein of commercial importance was that of the Spar Copper mine, which is in the Silver Plume granite. Contact metamorphic minerals are found chiefly in the top of the Leadville limestone in the vicinity of the Erie mine, and in the limestone of the Belden shale. Magnetite is the only ore mineral and it was produced only from the Iron King mine. The replacement deposits consist, in general, of sphalerite, galena, pyrite, and chalcopyrite in a gangue of siliclfied limestone or dolomite, quartz, and calcite. The veins, for the most part, consist of pyrite and quartz with only minor amounts of galena, sphalerite, and chalcopyrite. In both types of deposits gold is believed to be associated with the pyrite and sphalerite and silver with the galena. Oxidized ore was the chief product of the early mining. This ore consists of calamine, cerussite, smithsonite, or anglesite, or a combination of these minerals, in a gangue of siliceous limestone or silicified limestone or dolomite. Oxidation did not extend, in most cases, for more than 150 feetbelow the surface.
The ore deposits are believed to be genetically related to the Princeton quartz monzonite batholith. Ore-bearing solutions derived from the cooling of magma are believed to have migrated upwards along the pre-existing faults replacing favorable zones in the sedimentary rocks, or depositing quartz and ore minerals in open fissures in the igneous rocks.
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USGS Numbered Series
Geology and ore deposits of the Whitepine area, Tomichi mining district, Gunnison County, Colorado