Metals in Devonian kerogenous marine strata at Gibellini and Bisoni properties in southern Fish Creek Range, Eureka County, Nevada

Open-File Report 79-530

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A kerogen-rich sequence of siliceous mudstone, siltstone, and chert as much as 60 m thick on ridge 7129 in the southern Fish Creek Range, referred to as Gibellini facies of the Woodruff Formation, has been evaluated on the surface and in drill holes principally for its potential resources of vanadium, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, and syncrude oil content. The strata are part of a strongly deformed allochthonous mass of eugeosynclinal Devonian marine rocks that overlie deformed allochthonous Mississippian siliceous rocks and relatively undeformed autochthonous Mississippian Antler flysch at this locality. The vanadium in fresh black rocks obtained from drill holes and fresh exposures in trenches and roadcuts occurs chiefly in organic matter. Concentrations of vanadium oxide (V2O5) in unoxidized samples range from 3,000 to 7,000 ppm. In oxidized and bleached rock that is prevalent at the surface, concentrations of vanadium oxide range from 6,000 to 8,000 ppm, suggesting a tendency toward enrichment due to surficial weathering and ground-water movement. Zinc occurs in sphalerite, and selenium occurs in organic matter; molybdenum appears to occur both in molybdenite and in organic matter. Concentrations of zinc in unoxidized rock range from 4,000 to 18,000 ppm, whereas in oxidized rock they range from 30 to 100 ppm, showing strong depletion due to weathering. Concentrations of selenium in unoxidized rock range from 30 to 200 ppm, whereas in oxidized rock they range from 200 to 400 ppm, indicating some enrichment upon weathering. Concentrations of molybdenum in unoxidized rock range from 70 to 960 ppm, whereas in oxidized rock they range from 30 to 80 ppm, indicating strong depletion upon weathering. Most fresh black rock is low-grade oil shale, and yields as much as 12 gallons/short ton of syncrude oil. Metahewettite is the principal vanadium mineral in the oxidized zone, but it also occurs sparsely as small nodules and fillings of microfractures in unweathered strata. In fresh rock, bluish-white opaline-like silica (chalcedonic quartz) fills microfractures, and is believed to have originated by diagenetic mobilization of opaline silica from radiolarian tests and sponge spicules. As revealed by microscopic study, the Gibellini facies originally consisted of siliceous muds, slimes, and oozes high in organic constituents. The organic matter is amorphous flaky and stringy sapropel, and probably includes remains of bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and minor higher plants. Recognizable organic remnants include radiolarian tests, sponge spicules, conodonts, brachiopod shells, algae, and humic debris. Diagnostic radiolarians indicate a Late Devonian age for the Gibellini facies of the Woodruff Formation. Some pyrite is disseminated through the rock and may be primary (syngenetic) but significant pyrite and marcasite occur in chalcedonic quartz veinlets and appear to be diagenetic. In fresh rock, black solid bitumen and liquid oil fill voids and microfractures. These early phase hydrocarbons probably were released during diagenesis from complex nonhydrocarbon molecular structures originating from living organisms, and formed without any major thermal degradation of the kerogen. Gas chromatographic analysis of the saturated hydrocarbon fraction indicates a very complex mixture dominated by branched and cyclic compounds. Conodont and palynomorph color alteration, vitrinite reflectance, and other organic geochemical data suggest that the organic matter in the rock is thermally immature and has not been subjected to temperatures greater than 60?C since deposition in Devonian time. All of these characteristics are consistent with the interpretation of a relatively low temperature and a shallow-burial history for the Gibellini facies on ridge 7129.

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Metals in Devonian kerogenous marine strata at Gibellini and Bisoni properties in southern Fish Creek Range, Eureka County, Nevada
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
iii, 35 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.