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Significance of the precambrian basement and late Cretaceous thrust nappes on the location of tertiary ore deposits in the Oquirrh Mountains, Utah

July 18, 2005

The Oquirrh Mountains are located in north central Utah, in the easternmost part of the Basin and Range physiographic
province, immediately south of the Great Salt Lake. The range consists of a northerly trending alignment of peaks 56 km long. Tooele and Rush Valleys flank the Oquirrh Mountains on the western side and Salt Lake and Cedar Valleys lie on the eastern side. The world class Bingham mine in the central part of the range hosts disseminated copper-bearing porphyry, skarn, base-and precious-metal vein and replacement ore deposits. The district includes the outlying Barneys Canyon disseminated-gold deposits. Disseminated gold in the Mercur mining district in the southern part of the range has become exhausted. The Ophir and Stockton base- and precious-metal mining districts in the range north of Mercur also are inactive. A geologic map of the range (Tooker and Roberts, 1998), available at a scale of 1:50,000, is a summation of U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS) studies.

Information about the range and its mining areas is scattered. This report summarizes map locations, new stratigraphic and structural data, and reexamined data from an extensive published record. Unresolved controversial geological interpretations are considered, and, for the first time, the complete geological evidence provides a consistent regional basis for the location of the ore deposits in the range. The geological setting and the siting of mineral deposits in the Oquirrh Mountains began with the formation of a Precambrian craton. Exposures of folded Proterozoic basement rocks of the craton, in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City, were accreted and folded onto an Archean crystalline rock terrane. The accretion suture lies along the north flank of the Uinta Mountains. The western part of the accreted block was offset to northern Utah along a north-trending fault lying approximately along the Wasatch Front (Nelson and others,
2002), thereby creating a prominant basement barrier or buttress east of the Salt Lake area.

The accretion suture along the north flank of the Uinta
Anticline overlaps an earlier Precambrian east-west mobile
zone, the Uinta trend (Erickson, 1976, Bryant and Nichols,
1988 and John, 1989), which extends westward across western
Utah and into Nevada. A trace of the trend underlies the
middle part of the Oquirrh Mountains. Its structure is recognized by disrupted Paleozoic stratigraphic units and fold and fault evidence of thrust faulting, intermittent local uplift and erosion, the alignment of Tertiary intrusives and associated ore deposits. Geologic readjustments along the trend continued intermittently through the Paleozoic, Cenozoic, Tertiary, and the development of clastic deposits along the shores of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville.

Paleozoic sedimentary rocks were deposited on the craton platform shelf in westernmost Utah and eastern Nevada as the shelf subsided gradually and differentially. Debris was shed into two basins separated by the uplifted Uinta trend, the Oquirrh Basin on the south and Sublette Basin on the north. Sediments were derived from the craton to the east, the Antler orogenic zone on the west (Roberts, 1964), and locally from uplifted parts of the trend itself. Thick accumulations of clastic calcareous quartzite, shale, limestone, and dolomite of Lower and Upper Paleozoic ages are now exposed in the Oquirrh Mountains, the result of thrust faults.

Evidence of decollement thrust faults in in the Wasatch Mountains during the Late Cretaceous Sevier orogeny, recognized by Baker and others (1949) and Crittenden (1961, is also recognized in the Oquirrh Mountains by Roberts and others (1965). During the late Cretaceous Sevier Orogeny, nappes were thrust sequentially along different paths from
their western hinterland to the foreland. Five distinct nappes converged over the Uinta trend onto an uplifted west-plunging basement buttress east of the Oquirrh Mountains area: the Pass Canyon, Bingham,

Publication Year 2005
Title Significance of the precambrian basement and late Cretaceous thrust nappes on the location of tertiary ore deposits in the Oquirrh Mountains, Utah
DOI 10.3133/sir20045218
Authors Edwin W. Tooker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2004-5218
Index ID sir20045218
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse