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Integrated geophysical imaging of a concealed mineral deposit: a case study of the world-class Pebble porphyry deposit in southwestern Alaska

September 1, 2013

We combined aeromagnetic, induced polarization, magnetotelluric, and gravity surveys as well as drillhole geologic, alteration, magnetic susceptibility, and density data for exploration and characterization of the Cu-Au-Mo Pebble porphyry deposit. This undeveloped deposit is almost completely concealed by postmineralization sedimentary and volcanic rocks, presenting an exploration challenge. Individual geophysical methods primarily assist regional characterization. Positive chargeability and conductivity anomalies are observed over a broad region surrounding the deposit, likely representing sulfide minerals that accumulated during multiple stages of hydrothermal alteration. The mineralized area occupies only a small part of the chargeability anomaly because sulfide precipitation was not unique to the deposit, and mafic rocks also exhibit strong chargeability. Conductivity anomalies similarly reflect widespread sulfides as well as water-saturated glacial sediments. Mineralogical and magnetic susceptibility data indicate magnetite destruction primarily within the Cu-Au-Mo mineralized area. The magnetic field does not show a corresponding anomaly low but the analytic signal does in areas where the deposit is not covered by postmineralization igneous rocks. The analytic signal shows similar lows over sedimentary rocks outside of the mineralized area, however, and cannot uniquely distinguish the deposit. We find that the intersection of positive chargeability anomalies with analytic signal lows, indicating elevated sulfide concentrations but low magnetite at shallow depths, roughly delineates the deposit where it is covered only by glacial sediments. Neither chargeability highs nor analytic signal lows are present where the deposit is covered by several hundred meters of sedimentary and volcanic rocks, but a 3D resistivity model derived from magnetotelluric data shows a corresponding zone of higher conductivity. Gravity data highlight geologic features within the deposit, including shallow diorite sills that locally contain higher-grade mineralization. The results thus show ways in which an integrated survey approach might be used to distinguish zones of potentially economic mineralization.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2013
Title Integrated geophysical imaging of a concealed mineral deposit: a case study of the world-class Pebble porphyry deposit in southwestern Alaska
DOI 10.1190/geo2013-0046.1
Authors Anjana K. Shah, Paul A. Bedrosian, Eric D. Anderson, Karen D. Kelley, James Lang
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysics
Index ID 70094676
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center