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Isostatic gravity map of Mountain Pass and vicinity, California and Nevada

October 11, 2018

Gravity investigations of Mountain Pass and vicinity were begun as part of an effort to study regional crustal structures as an aid to understanding the geologic framework and mineral resources of the eastern Mojave Desert. The study area, which straddles the state boundary between southeastern California and southern Nevada, encompasses Mountain Pass, which is host to one of the world’s largest rare earth element carbonatite deposits.

The deposit is found along a north-northwest-trending, fault-bounded block that extends along the eastern parts of the Clark Mountain Range, Mescal Range, and Ivanpah Mountains. This Paleoproterozoic block is composed of a 1.7-Ga metamorphic complex of gneiss and schist that underwent widespread metamorphism and associated plutonism during the Ivanpah orogeny. The Paleoproterozoic rocks were intruded by a Mesoproterozoic (1.4 Ga) ultrapotassic alkaline intrusive suite and carbonatite body. The intrusive rocks include, from oldest to youngest, shonkinite, mesosyenite, syenite, quartz syenite, potassic granite, carbonatite, carbonatite dikes, and late shonkinite dikes.

Generally speaking, gravity anomalies can be used to infer subsurface geologic structure, revealing variations in lithology and delineating features such as faults, plutons, volcanic centers, calderas, and deep sedimentary basins.

As part of this study, gravity data from more than 2,400 stations were collected and processed to identify lateral changes in subsurface density. Gravity stations were distributed across parts of Shadow Valley, Clark Mountain Range, Mescal Range, Ivanpah Mountains, and Ivanpah Valley. The new gravity data were combined with preexisting gravity data from the surrounding areas in California and Nevada. All gravity data were gridded using a minimum curvature algorithm at an interval of 200 m, and the result is displayed as a color-contour isostatic gravity map.

Publication Year 2018
Title Isostatic gravity map of Mountain Pass and vicinity, California and Nevada
DOI 10.3133/sim3412A
Authors David A. Ponce, Kevin M. Denton
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Map
Series Number 3412
Index ID sim3412A
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center