Title

Geochemistry, Mineralization, Structure, and Permeability of a Normal-Fault Zone, Casino Mine, Alligator Ridge District, North Central Nevada

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Structural Geology

Volume

25

Issue

5

Publisher

Elsevier

Publication Date

2003

First Page

717

Last Page

736

DOI

10.1016/S0191-8141(02)00060-3

Abstract

We examine the geochemical signature and structure of the Keno fault zone to test its impact on the flow of ore-mineralizing fluids, and use the mined exposures to evaluate structures and processes associated with normal fault development. The fault is a moderately dipping normal-fault zone in siltstone and silty limestone with 55–100 m of dip-slip displacement in north-central Nevada. Across-strike exposures up to 180 m long, 65 m of down-dip exposure and 350 m of along-strike exposure allow us to determine how faults, fractures, and fluids interact within mixed-lithology carbonate-dominated sedimentary rocks. The fault changes character along strike from a single clay-rich slip plane 10–20 mm thick at the northern exposure to numerous hydrocarbon-bearing, calcite-filled, nearly vertical slip planes in a zone 15 m wide at the southern exposure. The hanging wall and footwall are intensely fractured but fracture densities do not vary markedly with distance from the fault. Fault slip varies from pure dip-slip to nearly pure strike-slip, which suggests that either slip orientations may vary on faults in single slip events, or stress variations over the history of the fault caused slip vector variations. Whole-rock major, minor, and trace element analyses indicate that Au, Sb, and As are in general associated with the fault zone, suggesting that Au- and silica-bearing fluids migrated along the fault to replace carbonate in the footwall and adjacent hanging wall rocks. Subsequent fault slip was associated with barite and calcite and hydrocarbon-bearing fluids deposited at the southern end of the fault. No correlation exists at the meter or tens of meter scale between mineralization patterns and fracture density.

We suggest that the fault was a combined conduit-barrier system in which the fault provides a critical connection between the fluid sources and fractures that formed before and during faulting. During the waning stages of deposit formation, the fault behaved as a localized conduit to hydrocarbon-bearing calcite veins. The results of this study show that fault-zone character may change dramatically over short, deposit- or reservoir-scale distances. The presence of damage zones may not be well correlated at the fine scale with geochemically defined regions of the fault, even though a gross spatial correlation may exist.