Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thar's Gold In Them Thar Hills

South Pass was a place I loved and a place where I figured I would retire. The only problem was traffic congestion; but with practice, one can get around that problem. It's the kind of place that if there were any ducks in the area, members of the Robertson clan would also live there.

Over three decades, I led dozens of field trips to South Pass and other gold districts around Wyoming to educate the public on prospecting. But from 2004 to 2007, the Wyoming Geological Survey, was operated by - well how do you say ....? Ah, I know, a complete moron. I take off my hat to the university hiring him without a background check.

Back to better things - South Pass was Wyoming's first gold discovery. Most of the greenstone belt and its gold districts remained poorly explored. When I started at the Geological Survey, I heard some claim the region was mined out. This is what most people and nearly every historian who knows nothing about geology claim about mining districts. When I decided to map the district in the 1980s, much of the region was unmapped and there was practically no information on any of the mines. It had been overlooked just like the Seminoe Mountains greenstone belt where I found visible gold and started a gold rush in 1981 and also the Rattlesnake Hills greenstone belt, where the geology was so favorable for large gold deposits, I couldn't believe no one had ever looked for major disseminated and high-grade gold deposits. Anyone who has studied gold deposits should have been in these three areas.

So, is South Pass finally mined out? Not even close! Since I investigated the district in the 1980s and published my book on the district in 1991, only a small amount of gold has been taken out. But get this - the Carissa gold mine, was only partially mined when the Wyoming State Legislature in the wisdom that can only be described as political, under-the-table, wisdom, decided to buy the mine from a private owner and place it in their South Pass City historical state park - a park that generates a few $hundred (maybe a few $thousand in some years) for the general fund. Yet, the Carissa still had gold. It had gold at the surface, enormous parts of its shear zone (the structure that contains the gold) remained unmined and unexplored, and it also had high-grade gold intercepts at depth beneath the mine workings. The geology of this mine (and nearly all mines in the district) is such that the gold is focused in steeply plunging ore shoots in shear zones. These shoots don't normally just give out. Similar shoots in other greenstone belts in Australia and Canada have produced gold to depths of 5000 or more feet. The Carissa shaft was only 400 feet deep. So, how many millions of ounces did the State of Wyoming take away from its citizens by withdrawing this mine?

Come to think of it, I have a start on my beard and
hair (actually I had long hair all though HS and college)
so maybe I could be an honorary Robinson (Duck Dynasty)
cousin. And I also like Duct tape, so maybe there's a
possibility I'm also related to Uncle Red?
And then there are the gold-bearing shear zones in the Atlantic City-South Pass City- Miners Delight trends and also in the Lewiston trend. These trends contain numerous historical mines and prospects, but more than 95% of the structures have never been sampled! Who knows what gold mine awaits discovery along these trends.

And then there are the giant gold paleoplacers - where gold is found in giant alluvial fans and reworked fans that were eroded from the South Pass area, or from a giant, hidden lode adjacent to the paleoplacers. The USGS suggested that just one of these - the Dickie Springs-Oregon Buttes paleoplacer contained at least 28.5 million ounces of gold. Where did all of the gold come from? I'm pretty sure I know, but it remains unexplored and buried.


Another unforgettable field trip to South Pass. The1989 International Geological Congress field trip to the Wyoming
 Craton which included South Pass.The lady was the Minnesota State Geologist. I'm the good looking guy second from the
 right. The other three guys were Russian geologists - one was a KGB agent (for those of you who did not grow up during
the cold war, this is the same as a Democrat) who kept all of the money and everything else for the other Russian members
 (yep, sounds like Obamacare). Anytime the Russian geologists needed money for coffee etc, they had to go to the KGB
 agent and beg for money. 



2002 photo of another field trip to South Pass (photo by Dave Miller, 2002). I'm in the center talking about geology.


Field trip for gold panning




Field trip to Snowy Range, Wyoming


Paleoplacer gold from the Dickie Springs area (photo courtesy of J. David Love).

Gold-bearing fanglomerate at Dickie Springs south of South Pass.