Discrimination of hydrothermally altered rocks along the Battle Mountain-Eureka, Nevada, mineral belt using Landsat images

Open-File Report 78-585

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Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) images of the northwestern part of the Battle Mountain-Eureki, Nevada mineral belt were evaluated for distinguishing hydrothermally altered rocks associated with porphyry copper and disseminated gold deposits. Detection of altered rocks from Landsat is based on the distinctive spectral reflectance of limonite present at coatings on weathered surfaces Some altered rocks are visible as bleached areas in individual MSS bands; however, they cannot be consistently distinguished from unaltered rocks with high albedo nor from bright areas resulting .from topographic slope. Black-and-white ratio images were generated to subdue .topographic effects, and three ratio images were composited in color to portray spectral radiance differences, forming an image known as a color-ratio composite (CRC). The optimum CRC image for this area has MSS 4/5 as blue, MSS 4/6 as yellow, and MSS 6/7 as magenta, and differs in two respects from most CRC images of arid areas. First, as a result of the increased vegetation cover in the study area, MSS 5/6 was replaced by MSS 4/6 as the yellow layer. Second, 70 mm positive transparencies were replaced by large format images (64 cm), thereby improving the internal registration of the CRC image and the effective spatial resolution. The pattern of limonitic rocks depicted in the CRC closely agrees with the mapped pattern of the alteration zones at the Copper Canyon and Copper Basin porphyry copper deposits. Certain west-facing topographic slopes in the altered areas are depicted as unaltered in the CRC, apparently due to atmospheric scattering, and illustrate the need for atmospheric correction. The disseminated gold deposits at Gold Acres and Tenabo are poorly represented in the CRC because of the general absence of limonite on these deposits. The presence of unaltered limonitic sedimentary and volcanic rocks is the largest obstacle to discriminating altered areas within the mineral belt. Reflectance spectra, made in situ and in the laboratory indicate differences between altered and unaltered rocks in the Spectra region between 1.1 ?m and 2.5 ?m. Such differences may be detectable by a remote scanner with a longer wavelength range than current Landsat MSS (0.6 ?m-1.1 ?m).

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Discrimination of hydrothermally altered rocks along the Battle Mountain-Eureka, Nevada, mineral belt using Landsat images
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
v, 66 leaves :ill., maps, photos ;28 cm.; (84 p. - PGS)