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What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...
  
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MikeD




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PostPosted: Dec 08, 2016 23:38    Post subject: What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...  

I am new to this board and am a relative beginner with hundreds of hours of in depth book knowledge and hundreds of hours of in the field rockhounding, but otherwise I have way more questions than answers. I appreciate any help and if wrong board, I apologize, please forward me to the right section.

I have spent much time in the backwoods of Colorado studying the telluride mineral belt from Telluride NE a few hundred miles to Jamestown.

I have found a spring that runs red at certain times of year when the water table changes. This are is about 10 miles away from the belt itself, has been explored by many people back in the "gold rush" booms and busts, but never mined as all records point to all Tellurides stopping about 10 miles from this spot.

The water only runs red on very rare occasions and I happen to have been lucky enough to find the spring, which to an untrained eye looks like part of the creek right next to it.

The water itself I have not been able to test yet for specific gravity, pH or anything of the sort.

The water is the exact color of what you would see running out of many mines. It is clear that this water is not coming from an old mine through a fault system as there are no known mines within 10 miles of this spot. This water is coming up from a deeper place and mixing in with the creek, therefore diluting most of the spring. This is another reason this is hard to see. The water is clearly full of iron (red) and possibly copper and other minerals.

The mines about 10 miles away from here were mostly old gold mines that have long since been shut down.

My thought and best guess is that after my research and what I've observed is that this crack winds through some sort of ore-rich ground. Most likely changes color based on the water table at the time of year. When water table is low, I suspect there is basically a pocket or largely faulted area where the water generally sits in and when the water table goes up, the colored water is seen at that time. My guess is that there is an intrusion below ground that is deep enough that when the geologists and prospectors came in 100 years ago simply missed or just never had the right clues to point them to this site.

I don't have a picture, but like I said, just imagine the orange/red water that comes out of most old telluride mines.

My Questions
1. What CAN the water you find really tell you about what may be below? Can I for instance tell if there is gold, iron, copper etc in the solution with a simple test or do I need to really have this assayed?

2. Has anyone ever seen a spring that is like this? We've probably all seen all sorts of colored water coming out of mines, but what does it tell you when you see this from a spring (other than its probably not the best spring to drink from)?

3. Have I possibly found a new mineral vein that could be mined?

4. What are your questions to help me better explain if I haven't done a good enough job.

Thank you for anyone's help with this. Any material you can point me to, experiences, thoughts, or comments would be great. I'm starting with nothing but this observation so anything is helpful.

I really appreciate All thoughts.

Mike
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alfredo
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PostPosted: Dec 09, 2016 00:54    Post subject: Re: What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...  

I've seen such springs of red iron-rich water in other parts of the world. They *might* be related to non-exposed mineralization, but more often they just indicate pyrite-bearing shale (so-called "Vitriolschiefer") or coal, or other pyrite-rich rocks. In dry weather you might notice a lot of different aluminium sulphates (alum, alunogen, pickeringite etc...) and iron sulphates (melanterite, copiapite, halotrichite etc...) growing seasonally under protected overhangs near the spring. These were the "vitriols" that were valuable in ancient times for all sorts of commercial applications: tanning leather, making ink, dyes, and so on. If some of the bright blue "copper vitriols" are present too (like chalcanthite, pisanite...) then there is a better chance you could be dealing with a hidden mineral deposit, but even then most times a copper showing doesn't indicate an economically viable orebody.

Unlike most mineral collectors, I do enjoy finding these somewhat unstable sulphate minerals. In collections they tend to dehydrate and crumble, some of them after years, some after mere hours, and they release sulphuric acid that eats up paper labels. But they can be beautiful. I store them in sealed plastic containers in the refrigerator, then they last longer.
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MikeD




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PostPosted: Dec 09, 2016 10:31    Post subject: Re: What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...  

Alfredo,

Thank you so very much. That realy helps me with what I'm rockhounding with at the moment.

Very interesting. I really appreciate your take on things. I can add a little bit to what you said to simply narrow things down, but I clearly need to go do a little more sampling.

There are no coal beds under this area, but there is a good bit of Mica in the area mixed with Granite. In this specific area Tungsten was the #1 mineral mined from shallow veins within about 3 miles (as crow flies) from this site. Definitely suphates all over the area.

Your comment about looking for specific outcroppings of minerals formed near this area sounds like a super idea. Unfortunately there are no direct overhangs over this specific spot and with the inconsistancy of the spring bringing up mineralized water I'd suspect any crystals would be small,, but it is close enough to the side of the mountain to where in the Summer months I could easily check out the area, so I won't know until I go back. I'm sure there are other springs in area that I've simply walked over so I will grid it out and check the entire area.

Test holes in the area are mainly "glazed" with small calcite crystals after being opened up for 100 years. I HAVE actually seen one old test vein that was clearly not enough to be of any value where there is pyrite (looks like gold with a headlamp, but tests show its pyrite) and Mica at the back of the hard rock, blasted out test shafts.

So based on what you have said, I am going to go back and collect samples of the water, the dirt around the opening, the soil directly outside of this spring and also do some very close observation of any surrounding overhangs I may have just simply missed. Got a few months though before I can access this area again, but as this has been on my mind for a few years and I simply am trying to learn more and more every day, I'll be back!

I really appreciate your input on all of this. I learned a good bit from what you have said and find that fascinating as we do have many coal mines in Colorado where water seaps. I have not seen red water coming from those, but then again I may not have been looking hard enough, and the water table has been rather low over the past few years which has kept these mines from doing much but storing water for the time being. Either way, great information.

So I guess one set of final questions based on what you have said.

Question(s):
1. When I get a large sample of the water coming from this spring, what is the best way for me to then figure out what is in the water? Obviously some type of testing. My thoughts would be to first do some simple tests on my own and evaporate all water to then see what I have left and examine under a scope.

2. Is this something that an assayer could help me with? Are there any other ways including tests off the shelf to help determine what I'm left with after I have dehydrated the solution?

And just so you understand my specific purpose right now, I'm not super interested in trying to develop this resource if there was something to be developed as I'm still a simple rockhound with a touch of "gold fever" at times, but really my point stems from wanting to just understand the underlying geology a little bit better. You've helped me get to the right questoins I need to answer to move forward.

Thank you!
Mike
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Pete Richards
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PostPosted: Dec 09, 2016 11:15    Post subject: Re: What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...  

Let me offer a few additional thoughts for you to consider. Your area is quite arid. I propose that during wet periods, oxygen-bearing surface water penetrates the rock, where some of it remains until it evaporates during dry periods. The oxygen in the penetrating water, plus additional oxygen that gets into the rock to some depth due to cracks etc, oxidizes pyrite and possibly other sulfides, producing iron and other sulfates. Following the next wet spell, water dissolves the sulfates and some of them are flushed out into the stream, producing the red water you see.

Remembering that water flows downhill, it seems more likely to me that this sort of rainfall-driven down-slope circulation pattern is responsible for what you see, rather than the water coming from a deep source. If it were the latter, flow would be more continuous, but it would have to be driven by water entering the ground at some higher, and probably more remote, location. The possibility of "primary water" coming from some deep magmatic source cannot be ruled out, but seems less likely.

You may be able to choose between these alternatives by paying attention to when the spring flows and when it is dry, and whether it always flows red or sometimes flows without color.

As for chemical composition, there are analytical sequences that one can follow to learn quite a bit about the inorganic content of your water, but they require equipment and reagents that you probably don't have. But most water quality testing labs can do a test for an extensive suite of metals , providing information on the concentration of 20 to 30 metals or more, even in very small quantities. If you go this route, please warn them that your sample may contain quite high concentrations of some metals, especially iron. Their routine analyses will probably be of waters containing vastly lower concentrations!

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PostPosted: Dec 09, 2016 11:27    Post subject: Re: What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...  

All you know right now is that something, probably iron as Alfredo says, precipitates under certain conditions at this spring. There are plenty of ways that iron can get into groundwater besides economic mineralization, so one spring running red is not that much of an indicator. You need more information. To satisfy your curiosity you might go to a lab near you, explain the situation, and ask them what samples they would collect, what analyses they would do, and what it would cost for the analyses. But before spending money on analyses, I'd contact the state geologic survey, a local geologist, or someone else knowledgeable about your area to find out how anomalous your spring is and what it might mean.

Although your question is interesting, this forum is really about mineral specimens and not about economic geology. Might I suggest you try to find a forum on economic geology and continue your inquires there. Sorry that i don't know of any such forums but they are probably out there. Good luck.
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MikeD




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PostPosted: Dec 12, 2016 11:54    Post subject: Re: What can a highly mineralized spring near known gold mines tell you? NOT a leak...  

Thank you Alfredo, Pete and Matt!

This was exactly the kind of discussion that I was looking for. As a general Geological enthusiast you all absolutely helped me narrow things down.

Pete - You are absolutely right as well. That is a great set of thoughts there which really make a lot of sense.

Alfredo - Thanks for helping to get me started with the discussion

Matt - Thank you for your input. Just to make it absolutely clear, I have zero interest in turning this into any sort of economically viable anything. I have zero intentions of developing anything here. My questions are simply more for my personal understanding of hydrology and minerology. I brought up the point of other mines in the area for some context of the geology around this specific area. I just want to make that clear for everyone that reads this. My sole intention was learning exactly what I've learned, and having the exact conversation I had. I appreciate you weighing in as I don't want anyone to think anything else. Like I said, I'm new to any geology messaging boards, this seemed as close to anything where people may have seen this type of coloring and in the end it has satisfied the kid inside me. Gives me one more story to tell my kids when we go camping and hiking! :)

So on that point.. If anyone else reads this and has any comments, I love to hear differing opinions and comments as I always learn more one way or another and that is my goal with rock hounding. Otherwise I know what I need to do now to understand a little bit more about the hydrology of the area as well as what to look for next time I'm back in that area.

I really appreciate everyone's input!

Mike
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