Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seminoe Mountains Gold and Diamond Anomaly

Typical limonite boxworks. The boxworks (vugs) are a result of rusting.
The original rock contained pyrite (FeS2) which oxidized (rusted)
with the sulfur carried away with rain water while the iron (Fe)
remained in place staining the rock red to brown.  Pyrite is often
gold-bearing and if the gold occurs as free gold within the pyrite
crystal structure, the pyrite will dissolve while the free gold will
 remain in place. Looking in vugs  sometimes reveals visible
gold (Hausel and Hausel, 2011).
In 1981, I was working as the economic geologist for the Wyoming Geological Survey. My goal was to visit every mining district in the State and map all of the major mining districts. One of the first districts I visited was located along the edge of Bradley Peak in the Seminoe Mountains where gold had been found in the late 1800s, but mining ended due to constant battles between miners and Indians.

When I reached Bradley Peak, I found a small number of old mine dumps on the northeastern margin of Bradley Peak in an area that had been known as the Ernst Mining district, and also the Seminoe Mountains Mining district. Here I combed the mine dumps and picked several quartz specimens with limonite boxworks that contained visible gold. If one sees visible gold with the naked eye in a hand sample, a rule of thumb is that the sample will assay at least 1.0 ounce per ton in gold (opt Au) (Hausel and Hausel, 2011).

One of these had considerable visible gold (but someone else decided they liked the sample better than I did and it disappeared from my office). One of the other samples that remained in the office had no obvious visible gold but still assayed 2.87 opt Au (which means that a ton of this material would contain nearly $4900 in gold).

A gold rush followed after the Wyoming Geological Survey released information on the discovery, but unfortunately, a company known as Timberline Minerals staked all of the public land and kept all other companies out of the area (the Seminoe Mountains are surrounded by private land to the south. Along the north, there is public land and I initially accessed the area by way of Sunday Morning Creek on the north - a very rough road). Timberline was more of a promoter than exploration group and tried to sell the property. This effectively locked up the district and kept any serious exploration from occurring. Anyway, I was told that all motels were filled with geologists in Rawlins, Sinclair and Saratoga following the release of our report.

One of the Penn mines in the Seminoe Mountains as it appeared in 1981.
Since that discovery, I revisited the district and mapped the Seminoe Mountains greenstone belt and identified some interesting targets. Not only are the narrow veins of interest, but this area also encloses komatiites, metabasalts and banded iron formation that have been altered to propylitic minerals (calcite, chlorite, epidote, etc) and this altered zone contains anomalous gold. Within this zone I also picked up a sample of banded iron formation with a cross-cutting vein that assayed 1.1 opt Au. To me, this area should be an excellent gold target.

The same mine dump in the 1800s. American Heritage Photo,
University of Wyoming. Note that there has been considerable
forestization during the past 100 years.
Veins on the edge of Bradley Peak have been eroding for millions of years. One drainage (Deweese Creek) is an immature drainage, but there is no evidence it had been prospected for gold or nuggets in modern times. It drains the old Penn mines at Bradley Peak and it should provide some gold (and nuggets) for some industrious prospector. The biggest problem with the drainage is the overall lack of much gravel to mine.

While mapping this area, I met two wonderful prospectors, Donna and Charlie Kortes (the Kortes Dam was named in their honor). They showed me where they had collected some quartz with visible gold at the Sunday Morning mine - I also collected a specimen of milky quartz with gem-quality chrysocolla and cuprite from the adit. Some extraordinary banded iron formation is found in this area, some would make excellent decorative stone.

Charlie and Donna took me out into the basin near the Miracle Mile along the North Platte River where they had been digging up gold in the dry alluvial gravels on both sides of the North Platte River more than a mile from the drainage. I dug gold from this alluvium at several places a mile or more from the river bank. In most of these samples, we also recovered pyrope garnets (diamond indicator mineral). EVERY pyrope we tested with the University of Wyoming's microprobe yielded diamond-stability chemistry. Such data supports there is a rich, hidden, diamond pipe(s) in the area. Although we only tested a few dozen pyropes, I've never encountered a 100% diamond stability anomaly. So when you are looking for gold in this area, keep an eye open for diamonds - there is likely diamonds in this alluvium as well as in the kimberlite pipe(s) somewhere in nearby uplifts.
References Cited

  • Hausel, W.D., 1981, Report on selected gold-bearing samples, Seminoe Mountains greenstone belt, Carbon County, Wyoming: Geological Survey 
  • Hausel, W.D., 1992, Economic geology of the Seminoe Mountains mining district, Carbon County Wyoming: Geological Survey of Wyoming Mineral Report MR92-6, 32 p.
  • , W.D., 1993, Preliminary report on the mining history, geology, geochemistry, and mineralization of the Seminoe Mountains mining district, Carbon County, Wyoming: Wyoming Geological Association Jubilee Anniversary Field Conference Guidebook, p. 387-409.
  • , W.D., 1994, Economic Geology of the Seminoe Mountains Mining District, Carbon County, Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Report of Investigations 50, 31 p.
  • , W.D., and Hausel, E.J., 2011, GOLD - Field Guide for Prospectors and Geologists (Part 1 Wyoming Examples). CreateSpace, 366 p.