Hydrothermal Zoning in the Copper-Molybdenum System Beneath Red Cone Peak, Colorado
Creators:McCudden, Corey B.
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences Undergraduate Research Forum. 2006
Red Cone Peak lies one mile south of the Continental Divide, about 50 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado, and five miles south of the town of Montezuma. The Red Cone igneous complex is within the Colorado Mineral Belt, a zone of igneous bodies and associated hydrothermal activity that crosses the mountainous part of the state from southwest to northeast. Mineralization within the Mineral Belt probably resulted from igneous activity that accompanied eastward-directed subduction of the Farallon Plate below North America as the Rocky Mountains formed. This research addresses a fundamental question: was there an early copper-rich event in the Mineral Belt that has gone unrecognized, and which may be related genetically to the well known molybdenum event that to date has characterized large-scale mineralization in the Belt? The Red Cone complex intruded from 42 to 38 million years ago, which was 5 to 10 million years before world-class molybdenum deposits at Climax (25 km to the southwest) and Henderson (20 km to the northeast). The timing of emplacement of the Red Cone complex, and the characteristics of the hydrothermal mineralization could put it in a category that is unique from the surrounding deposits. Samples from a 2000 foot drill core at Webster Pass, about 1.0km west of Red Cone Peak, will be used to characterize the lateral extent of the hydrothermal mineralization, and the presence of vertical zoning within the Red Cone complex. Rocks in the vicinity have been pervasively mineralized with pyrite, and polished thin sections have been made from samples collected at nine locations down the core. Copper and other trace elements (including molybdenum and gold) will be analyzed for using multi-element EDAX and electron microprobe techniques. The analysis will focus on individual pyrite grains, and these data will document variations in the trace element compositions of pyrite with depth into the igneous and hydrothermal system. Studies have shown that the Red Cone complex displays characteristics of a large porphyry-type metal system. The Climax and Henderson deposits have been well documented and are currently being mined. These bodies are two of the richest molybdenum deposits in the world, and they provide clues to understanding the emplacement and zoning of the rocks at Webster Pass. Results from the present study will provide a better understanding of the Red Cone system and a more complete picture of mineralization in this part of the Colorado Mineral Belt, which formed as the Rocky Mountains uplifted and western North America evolved over the past 70 million years.
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