Structural reconstruction and age of an extensionally faulted porphyry molybdenum system at Spruce Mountain, Elko County, Nevada


Pape, James R.
Seedorff, Eric
Baril, Tyler C.
and Thompson, Tommy B.

This study integrates a cross-sectional restoration of normal faults and porphyry-related hydrothermal alteration zones with six new U-Pb zircon dates to constrain the ages of mineralization and large-magnitude Cenozoic extension at Spruce Mountain, northeastern Nevada (USA). Paleozoic sedimentary rocks and sparse rhyolitic intrusive rocks host a porphyry molybdenum deposit dated as ca. 38 Ma that contains associated skarn, carbonate replacements, fissure veins, and jasperoid. At least six crosscutting sets of normal faults with variable dip directions (east, west, and north) and angles (60°) are identified at Spruce Mountain, reflecting overprinting phases of extension. Based on the restored cross section, normal faulting at Spruce Mountain resulted in ~6.9 km (120%) of total extension and ~35° of net eastward tilting. The first four fault sets, late Eocene (ca. 38 Ma) or older, collectively accommodate most of the total extension (~5.4 km). Later faults probably were active in the Miocene and Quaternary. All restored faults had initial dips of 45° or greater, and the restored preextensional structure of Spruce Mountain consists of west-vergent folds and gentle westward dips of Paleozoic rocks. Spruce Mountain is classified as a rhyolitic porphyry Mo or Climax-type deposit, with extensive skarn. Eocene rhyolite porphyry dikes associated with porphyry Mo mineralization locally intrude the early generations of normal faults at Spruce Mountain. However, many normal faults also postdate molybdenum mineralization and have partially dismembered the system. Cross-sectional restoration of the postmineralization faulting suggests that the original deposit had an ~6 km long by ~3 km deep elliptical pattern with carbonate replacement deposits surrounding skarn.

Full article

Figure 3 (on this and following page). Geologic maps of the Spruce Mountain area. (A) Map shows lithologic units, extensional faults color coded by relative ages, locations of samples for U-Pb dates with ages, and line of reconstructed cross section (see text). Map compiled and modified from Hope (1972), Fraser et al. (1986), and Swenson (1991), incorporating information from Harlow (1956), Coats (1987), and this study. Revisions in local areas based on footnotes in proof on map of Hope (1972), mapping by Saunders and Bresnahan (2010), and our field mapping and observations.

Publication Listing

Geosphere, v. 12, no. 1, p. 237–263, doi: 10.1130 /GES01249.1.