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Geology of the Monte Blanco borate deposits, Furnace Creek Wash, Death Valley, California

October 7, 2019

The Monte Blanco borate deposits are located along the southern margin of Death Valley’s Furnace Creek Wash, south of Twenty Mule Team Canyon road in California. Topographic and geologic mapping by S. Muessig and F.M. Byers, Jr., in 1954 documented these deposits’ geologic settings, geometries, mineralogies, and chemical characteristics. They estimated borate resources at the time to be in excess of 550,000 tons B2O3

The borate bodies are composed of predominantly ulexite and colemanite. They lie beneath Monte Blanco itself and along a northwest-trending series of conspicuous, white hills and mounds formed by northeasterly dipping, fine-grained sedimentary beds and basaltic volcanic rocks of the Miocene and Pliocene Furnace Creek Formation. 

Geologic data suggest that in Miocene and Pliocene time, fine-grained sediments, volcanic debris and flows, and volcanically associated, boron-rich fluids gradually filled a fairly flat playa-like environment. At times, thick beds of felty crystals of ulexite developed and were interlayered as lenses in a thick series of mudstones as is seen today at the Eagle Borax works. After burial, the exterior of the ulexite deposit was altered to massive colemanite by ground water, which produced the “shell” of colemanite that typically surrounds the presently outcropping ulexite bodies.