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A lithologic-tectonic framework for the metallogenic provinces of California

January 1, 1981

The lithologic-tectonic framework of California developed principally during Mesozoic time when various terranes of oceanic crust and island-arc crust were accreted to older sialic crust, resulting in westward growth of the continent. Emplacement of great batholithic masses of granitoid rocks cutting all these crustal types also took place during the Mesozoic period. The discrete tectonostratigraphic terranes that resulted from these events and subsequent Tertiary and Quaternary volcanic events are characterized by specific types of metallic mineral deposits or, in some terranes, by the virtual absence of deposits. Lead-silver-zinc replacement-type deposits are common in the Paleozoic carbonate terrane in the eastern part of the state and occur sporadically elsewhere in the miogeoclinal and cratonal terranes but are absent from the oceanic and island-arc terranes. The vast majority of contact metasomatic tungsten deposits, including all the large ones, are in pendants of miogeoclinal rocks in the Sierra Nevada batholith, but the important Atolia deposits reside in granitoid rocks that invade oceanic terrane. Molybdenum distribution closely follows that of tungsten. All the large contact metasomatic iron deposits in California are in craton and miogeoclinal terranes, but sparse small deposits of this type also occur in island-arc terranes of the northern Sierra Nevada and eastern Klamath Mountains. Lode gold deposits, although widely scattered, show a marked preference for oceanic and island-arc terranes that have been invaded by granitoid plutons. All the major deposits, including late Tertiary bonanza deposits such as Bodie, are in such terranes. It appears that magmatic processes were responsible for mobilizing and transporting the gold, but the metal was perhaps derived from the eugeosynclinal rocks, notably the mafic volcanics. Most mercury deposits are found in the Coast Ranges, where they commonly occur in silica-carbonate rock, an alteration product of serpentinite. The deposits appear to be spatially related to the Coast Range thrust, and the source of the mercury may have been sedimentary rocks of the underlying Franciscan assemblage. Epigenetic mineralization occurred at several different times during the Mesozoic, and again during Miocene and Pliocene time. The timing of mineralization events and the distribution of various deposit types indicate that no broad-scale zoning of epigenetic deposits exists around the Sierra Nevada batholith.Syngenetic deposits are represented mainly by massive sulfides, chert-associated manganese, and chromite. The massive sulfide deposits, with one exception, are restricted to island-arc terranes, and nearly all of these deposits are in silicic volcanic rocks. They are interpreted to be syngenetic with the enclosing rocks, although some redistribution of metals may have occurred after the original deposition. The deposits occur in volcanic sequences of at least five different ages ranging from Early Devonian to Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous and, along with their enclosing rocks, were probably formed at some distance from their present sites. Chert-associated manganese deposits occur mainly in exotic blocks of oceanic crust in melange and probably formed in fairly deep ocean environments. Chromite is confined to ultramafic rock, much of which occupies suture zones separating various accreted terranes.

Publication Year 1981
Title A lithologic-tectonic framework for the metallogenic provinces of California
DOI 10.2113/gsecongeo.76.4.765
Authors J. P. Albers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Economic Geology
Index ID 70011955
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse