Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The Alaska Mineral Resource Assessment Program: Background information to accompany folio of geologic and mineral resource maps of the Circle quadrangle, Alaska

January 1, 1994

The geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and Landsat imagery of the Circle quadrangle were investigated by an interdisciplinary research team for the purpose of assessing the mineral potential of the area. The quadrangle covers approximately 15,765 km2 in east-central Alaska; most of it is included in the mountainous Yukon-Tanana Upland physiographic division, but the northernmost part is in the low-lying Yukon Flats section. The Circle mining district, in the east-central part of the quadrangle, has been a major producing area of placer gold since its discovery in 1893.

For descriptive purposes, the Circle quadrangle is divided into three areas: the northwest Circle quadrangle, the area north of the Tintina fault zone, and the area south of the Tintina fault zone. The Tintina fault zone extends northwesterly through the northern part of the quadrangle. The northwest Circle quadrangle contains mostly folded and faulted, slightly metamorphosed sedimentary rocks that are intruded by Tertiary granitic plutons. In the northern part of the area north of the Tintina fault zone (Little Crazy Mountains and northern east Crazy Mountains), the rocks consist primarily of the gabbro and basalt of the Circle Volcanics and minor associated chert, graywacke, and limestone. Elsewhere in this area (south of the Circle Volcanics and in the western Crazy Mountains), the rocks are mostly slightly metamorphosed Paleozoic sedimentary rocks that have been folded and faulted. Rocks in the largest part of the quadrangle, the area south of the Tintina fault zone, consist largely of pelitic rocks that are regionally metamorphosed to greenschist and amphibolite facies. Felsic plutons, mostly Tertiary in age, occur throughout the area. The metamorphic rocks are separated from sedimentary rocks on the northwest by thrust faulting.

The aeromagnetic and gravity data show clear differences between the areas north and south of the Tintina fault zone. The metamorphic terrane to the south has low overall gravity and local gravity lows over exposed granitic plutons. It is hypothesized that magnetic chlorite schist infolded with nonmagnetic quartzite and schist account for east-northeast-trending magnetic highs that approximately parallel the regional strike of the most prominent foliation in the metamorphic rocks. North of the Tintina fault zone, the Circle Volcanics are characterized by high gravity and east-west-trending magnetic highs. The Tintina fault zone has an intense magnetic high near the western margin of the Circle quadrangle overlying the magnetic granodiorite of the Victoria Mountain pluton. A magnetic high near Circle Hot Springs is less intense, but broader, and could reflect a buried magnetic pluton similar to that of the Victoria Mountain pluton.

Computer-enhanced Landsat images of the Circle quadrangle show trends and patterns of concentrations of linear features. Features trending northeast-southwest predominate throughout the quadrangle; northwest-southeast-trending linear features are found mostly south of the Tintina fault zone. High concentrations of linear features were not found to correspond to areas of known mineralization in any consistent or significant way that could presently be used in locating areas of mineralization. Geochemical and mineralogical studies of stream sediment and heavy-mineral concentrates from the Circle quadrangle identify areas of anomalous concentrations of metallic elements, including gold, silver, tin, tungsten, lead, antimony, zinc, thorium, uranium, and beryllium. The data delineate areas of known mineral occurrences and areas that may contain undiscovered mineral resources.

To date, placer gold has been the only significant metallic mineral resource from the Circle quadrangle, but the general geologic setting, especially the presence of post-orogenic plutons, is similar to that of regions that contain tin greisen deposits, tungsten skarn deposits, lode gold deposits in metasedimentary rocks, and uranium vein deposits. Six areas or tracts were identified in which such deposits might occur, and two more tracts were delineated as possible for the occurrence of shale-hosted Lead-zinc deposits. The discovery of two diamonds in the gravels of Cooked Creek point to the slight possibility of finding placer or lode diamond deposits. 

Although most of the past and present gold mining has taken place in four areas in the quadrangle, a sedimentary basin near the town of Central was identified as possibly containing buried placer gold deposits or sedimentary uranium deposits.