Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hidden Gold Deposits in Wyoming

Wyoming is sitting on tens of billions of dollars in gold! So why would the Gemstone State* sit on so much gold and do nothing about it? Is it because Mother Nature is not willing to give up her secrets easily? The answer is yes, but government agencies have also made a living off of withdrawing potentially productive land that contains a mountain of gold and base metals.

The North American Craton showing the very old Archean (Archon) cores (rocks greater than 2.5 billion years in age) with younger Proterozoic Provinces (rocks greater than 600 million years and less than 2.5 billion years). The Archon and Proton Provinces form the continental craton.
When geologists look for places to explore for gold, one of the first places we look are cratons. The word craton is derived from the Greek word kratos, meaning ‘strength’. And for those of you who are not familiar with the term; cratons are the very old, stabilized cores (or foundations) of the earth's continents. Where these cores are exposed, they contain old, hard, schists, gneisses, and granitic rocks that geologists refer to as ‘hard rocks’ as compared to younger, stratified sedimentary ‘soft rocks’ that often cover large portions of the cratons and lap onto the margins of the cratons extending from these margins to the sea. The old Continental cores are formed of rocks that yield age dates of more than 600 million years old, and many are rich in golddiamonds, rubies, sapphires and other gemstones as well as rare metals such as chromium, titanium, nickel, copper and platinum group metals.  

The Duncan gold mine at South Pass.
Some of the great gold mines (and diamond mines for that matter) are found in cratons. In Western Australia, the Super Pit at Kalgoorlie is located withiin the Yilgarn Craton. The giant open pit gold mine is so large that it can be seen from space and it produces 850,000 ounces of gold each year (more than twice the amount of gold mined in Wyoming's entire history). Another great gold mine was the Homestake mine in South Dakota. This mine produced 40 million ounces of gold over 123 years before shutting down in 2001. The Homestake sits on the edge of the Wyoming Craton. These are just two of many examples of major gold mines in cratons around the world. So based on geology, Wyoming’s portion of the craton should have considerable gold and should at least be comparable to Montana and South Dakota.

If we compare total historical gold production in Wyoming to the surrounding states, it becomes apparent Wyoming is a very significant anomaly! In the past, Wyoming produced only 348,000 ounces of gold according to Hausel (1980, 1989, 1997), and Hausel and Hausel (2011). This is very minor compared to all other western States. Yet, all of Wyoming is underlain by a Craton, and the state contains many favorable geological terrains including Archean greenstone belts (greater than 2.5 billion year old volcanic-sedimentary basins that are well-known for containing significant amounts of gold elsewhere in the world), Tertiary-Quaternary volcanic rocks (such as Yellowstone, the Absaroka Mountains, Mineral Hill, Bear Lodge Mountains, Rattlesnake Hills) and Proterozoic (600 million years old to 2.5 billion years old) rocks. Based on geology alone, Wyoming should have produced 100 to 500 times more gold than it has.

The Carissa Gold mine, South Pass.
For instance, South Dakota produced 145 times more gold than Wyoming; Montana produced 47 times more gold than Wyoming and both of these states are partially underlain by the same craton as Wyoming  (Hausel, 2008).

Colorado produced 144 times as much gold as Wyoming, Utah produced 85 times more gold, Arizona 46 times more gold, California 340 times more gold, Alaska 115 times more gold, and Nevada produced 437 times more gold than Wyoming

So where is all of that Wyoming gold hiding? Well, I will tell you in my future blogs and newsletters. Just follow my website, some of my gold blogs and my facebook page to learn more about gold in Wyoming, diamonds, and other treasures that prospectors search for.

Hausel, W.D., 1980, Gold districts of Wyoming: Geological Survey of Wyoming Report of Investigations 23, 71 p.
Hausel, W.D., 1989, The geology of Wyoming's precious metal lode and placer deposits: Geological Survey of Wyoming Bulletin 68, 248 p.
Hausel, W.D., 1997, The geology of Wyoming's copper, lead, zinc, molybdenum, and associated metal deposits in Wyoming: Geological Survey of Wyoming Bulletin 70, 224 p.
Hausel, W.D., 2008, Significant gold mineralization-Wyoming examples in Woods, A., and Lawlor, J., eds., Topics of Wyoming Geology, Wyoming Geological Association Guidebook, p. 59-76. 
Hausel, W.D., and Hausel, E.J., 2011, Gold – Field Guide for Prospectors and Geologists (Wyoming and Adjacent Areas). Booksurge, 365 p.

*In many circles, Wyoming is known as the Cowboy State, while Idaho is referred to as the Gem State. However, over a period of three decades (1975-2006), dozens and dozens of gemstones, diamonds and gold deposits were discovered in Wyoming. Many were found where others had looked, some were located where no one had looked, others were sitting adjacent to highways and interstates and some were found along 4-wheel drive roads. The discoveries were so numerous and of such a variety, that many people now refer to Wyoming the ‘Gemstone State’, particularly since the state has a much greater variety of gems than any other state in the US.

The author, discovers another mineral deposit in 2004 and ends up on the cover of ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal: a few hundred mineral deposits were found in Wyoming from 1975 to 2006. The discoveries included a Cripple Creek-like gold district in Wyoming known as the Rattlesnake Hills greenstone belt. Because of these discoveries, publications, geological mapping and more, the Wyoming Geological Survey was known to be one of the top three state geological surveys in the country up until 2004, yet it was the smallest geological survey for many years. In 2004, things really started to go wrong and within 3 years, essentially half of the staff and advisory board resigned, transferred, retired or died. Some who lived through this time resigned for ethical reasons. All of this occurred under the watchful eye of a Democrat Governor.  And there has never been any investigations as to what went wrong.

One of several free field trips and talks presented by the author to help educate the public in mineral deposits and prospecting.