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Series ARC-SDSU-002-97

Affiliated Research Center


FINAL REPORT

Integrated Use of Remote


Sensing and GIS for Mineral
Exploration

La Cuesta International, Inc.

La Cuesta
International, Inc.

San Diego State University

Commercial Remote Sensing Program,


National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Affiliated Research Center
Final Report

Integrated Use of Remote Sensing and


GIS for Mineral Exploration:
A Project of the NASA Affiliated Research Center at
San Diego State University

Project conducted by:


La Cuesta International, Inc.
1805 Wedgemere Road
El Cajon, California 92020

Report prepared by:


Mr. W. Perry Durning
La Cuesta International, Inc.
and
Mr. Stephen R. Polis and Dr. Eric G. Frost,
Department of Geologic Sciences, San Diego State University
and
Mr. John V. Kaiser
Department of Geography, San Diego State University

Report prepared for:


Dr. Douglas A. Stow, Principal Investigator
San Diego State University
Department of Geography
San Diego, California 92182-4493
and
Commercial Remote Sensing Program Office
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529

January 20, 1998


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and is export controlled. It may not be transferred to foreign
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Department of Commerce. Violations of these regulations are
punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.

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Table of Contents

EXPORT ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS NOTICE .................................................. iii


Executive Summary ................................................................................................................. vi
1.0 Introduction..........................................................................................................................1
2.0 Structural Mapping ..............................................................................................................2
3.0 Alteration Mapping..............................................................................................................3
4.0 Radar ....................................................................................................................................5
5.0 Results and Conclusions ......................................................................................................5
6.0 References............................................................................................................................6
Appendix A. Technical Proposal .............................................................................................20
Appendix B. Commercial Proposal .........................................................................................24
Appendix C. Schedule .............................................................................................................25

Figures

Figure 1. Tertiary dip domain map of the southern Basin and Range Province. ......................8
Figure 2. Generalized geologic map of the northern part of the Colorado River Trough and
adjacent region. ..........................................................................................................................9
Figure 3. Diagrammatic representation of opposite polarity tilt patterns in extensional
terranes as separated by a strike-slip or transfer fault (A) or an accommodation zone (B). ....10
Figure 4. Geometric and kinematic characteristics of Neogene extensional deformation,
Colorado River extensional corridor, NV, AZ, and CA. (Frost and Heidrick, 1996)..............11
Figure 5. Detachment fault-fold geometry and deep-crustal structure, Colorado River
extensional terrane, as based on CALCRUST and reprocessed industry seismic lines...........12
Figure 6. Diagrammatic model of crustal extension showing truncation of upper-plate normal
faults at depth into a gently inclined detachment fault. ...........................................................13
Figure 7. A SPOT-Landsat TM ratio threshold merge of the area around the southern
Chocolate Mountains illustrating extensional antiforms and areas of potential hydrothermal
alteration highlighted in yellow. ..............................................................................................14
Figure 8. A SIR-C radar Landsat TM threshold merge of the area around the Mesquite mine.15
Figure 9. An over-simplified structural model depicting the Mesquite mine located within a
newly interpreted accommodation zone...................................................................................16

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Figure 10. Landsat TM 741 color composite image of the southern Colorado River
illustrating extensional faults and the newly interpreted accommodation zone. .....................17
Figure 11. A SIR-C radar color composite with interpreted Tertiary upper-plate transport
directions and accommodation zone structure illustrated. .......................................................18
Figure 12. A Landsat TM ratio color composite of the area around the Mesquite mine. .......19
Figure A-1. Diagrammatic representation of opposite polarity tilt patterns in extensional
terranes as separated by a strike-slip or transfer fault (A) or an accommodation zone (B). ....23

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Executive Summary

The Affiliated Research Center (ARC) program was conducted with La Cuesta International,
Inc. (LCI) and supported by San Diego State University (SDSU). The purpose of the
program was to develop the procedures and demonstrate the feasibility of using broad-band
and hyperspectral, remotely sensed data to identify extensional geologic structures
(accommodation zones) associated with precious/base metal deposition. In most cases,
current mineral exploration concepts have failed to recognize the association of
mineralization with unique extensional structures called accommodation zones. These zones
show little obvious deformation, yet focus fluid migration and mineralization into predictable
regions of the crust. The Mesquite gold mine, located in southeastern California,
approximately 60 km east of the Salton Sea, was studied to determine if it resides within an
unrecognized accommodation zone. Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM), Satellite Pour
l'Observation de la Terre (SPOT), and radar data were observed both separately and in a
merged format to extract spectral and spatial information using ER Mapper software. A
variety of images were produced to highlight important structural features along with areas of
hydrothermal alteration. Images produced include Landsat TM and Shuttle Imaging Radar-C
(SIR-C) radar color composites, color ratio composites, principal components, thresholds and
Landsat TM-SPOT and Landsat TM-SIR-C radar merges. Hyperspectral data (Advanced
Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) and Airborne Terrestrial Applications
Sensor (ATLAS)) where obtained though not processed, because the data did not cover the
study area.

The ARC project proved to be extremely beneficial in training LCI with remote sensing
procedures that resulted in the following:

• The recognition of an accommodation zone within which the Mesquite gold mine
resides.

• The establishment of a template to identify hydrothermally altered areas from Landsat


TM data. Prior studies in a non-ARC area showed less than 10% of TM anomalies
were related to hydrothermal alteration. Using the ARC template greater than 50% of
the TM anomalies checked in the field showed hydrothermal alteration.

• The discovery of two virgin mineral systems in another non-ARC exploration area as
a direct result of Landsat TM data interpretations using the template described above.

Thus, this study has provided an immediate positive impact for LCI by providing a template
to process TM imagery to successfully evaluate large areas of interest for mineral potential,
focus field evaluations, and ultimately provide a higher probability for exploration success.

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1.0 Introduction

Recognition of major gold deposits formed in association with Tertiary crustal extensions in
the western U.S. has been established and similar occurrences are now being recognized
globally. In most cases, current mineral exploration concepts have failed to recognize the
association of mineralization with unique extensional structures called accommodation
zones. These zones, described below, show little obvious deformation, yet focus fluid
migration and mineralization into predictable regions of the crust. Integrating remotely
sensed data with existing geologic data provides a unique opportunity to identify the location
of these previously unrecognized zones. Guided by an understanding of accommodation
zones, Landsat TM, SPOT, and radar data were utilized to locate an unrecognized
accommodation zone in which the Mesquite gold mine is located. Further remote sensing
efforts made possible by insights developed through this ARC effort support the association
between accommodation zones and precious/base metal deposition.

Accommodation Zones

In areas of crustal extension, the crust breaks along a multitude of normal faults, commonly
termed an "array," with different segments having different transport directions as shown in
Figures 1, 2, and 3. These segmented sections occur at a scale of 50 - 500 km along strike.
Within these extensional terranes, transport of major regions is in one uniform direction
(Bosworth et al., 1986; Lister et al., 1986). However, zones with opposite transport generally
exist in adjacent domains. Between these zones of opposite transport, a zone of deformation
must exist to allow opposite motion to occur during the same deformational phase. These
zones have been called "accommodation zones," and have only recently been recognized
within extensional systems on a worldwide basis. Accommodation zones link the normal
fault arrays of opposing transport directions. These regions are often zones of little obvious
deformation, appearing not as strike-slip faults, but brecciated “null” zones because the entire
volume of rock has been affected (Anderson, 1971; Bosworth et al., 1986).

Because accommodation zones represent areas of vergence reversal within extensional


terranes at the up-dip tips of the regional faults (Figures 3 and 4), they focus fluid migration
and mineralization into predictable regions of the crust. The Nelson District in southern
Nevada is an excellent example where alteration and mineralization occur within an
accommodation zone (Faulds et al., 1987; Frost and Heidrick, 1996). This zone is between
two opposite facing regions of extensional transport that can be discerned on the regional
tectonic maps and appears to point directly to the major gold mineralization.

The three-dimensionality of extended crust has been well documented by researchers in the
petroleum industries through high-quality, three-dimensional seismic investigations. These
seismic studies have demonstrated the presence of accommodation structures in nearly all the
extensional terranes in the world. Within these zones, fluids flow toward and saturate
portions of the accommodation zones. Knowledge of how accommodation-zone tectonics
localize fluid flow allows researchers to target discrete areas for detailed exploration within
the much larger extensional terrane.

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The association of accommodation zones with mineralization is due to three main factors:
1. Accommodation zones are deep-crustal breaks that often become syntectonic volcanic
centers because they localize the magmatic material, thus becoming an elongated volcanic
and plutonic center that intrudes existing fault zones and provides the thermodynamic
energy to drive mineralized fluids.
2. There is an increase in brecciation and the number of faults with a net decrease in the
average fault slip within the accommodation zone, making the faulting more subtle but
opening much larger volumes of extended rock. This provides excellent long-term
permeability for multigenerational fluid flow and subsequent mineralization.
3. The geometry is such that a localized compressional stress regime forms anticlinal
culminations located structurally up-dip from the normal faults it separates or
"accommodates" on either side. This extensional geometry provides a flowpath from
multiple normal faults toward the accommodation zones where mineralization can occur
repeatedly as the faults continue to break through time.

Combining optical and radar remote sensing and image processing provides a powerful
approach to search for accommodation zones. Because the areas of opposite dip domains are
so large, interpreting field data and large scale maps easily misses the location of
accommodation zones. Since the recognition of opposite dip domains has not been part of
field investigation methodologies before, many of the geologic maps and their synthesis are
simply inadequate to discern accommodation zone structures. Optical and radar data show
geologic structure and enable the geologist to synthesize the tectonics and also discern the
potential locations of hydrothermal alteration. This image analysis, coupled with an
understanding of the tectonic processes and significance of the localized alteration, provides a
powerful tool for exploration.

2.0 Structural Mapping

The antiformal-synformal character of the detachment fault system is one of the best ways of
finding unrecognized large-scale normal faults and determining where accommodation zones
might be found. Because of the regional perspective provided by the images and the display
of spectral and topographic data with optical and radar images, the antiformal-synformal
character of ranges can be readily discerned. In most areas, the long axis of the antiforms is
parallel to the upper plate transport direction, much like megamullion structures elongated in
the transport direction (Figures 5 and 6). These mullion structures appear to have a fairly
consistent orientation on a regional scale and appear to be more pronounced as more relative
motion has taken place on the fault structures. An obvious cause of this relationship is that
the once moderate angle faults with their fluted fault patterns have tilted over more and more,
making the mullions into whale-like, antiformal highs and trough-like synformal lows.

Due to the regional nature of these distinctive antiformal-synformal features, optical and
radar imaging provides feature recognition for these targets, and enables potential
hydrothermally saturated antiforms to be highlighted. Figure 7 is a SPOT- Landsat TM ratio

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threshold merge of the area around the southern Chocolate Mountains. The image illustrates
the ability to map and target extensional antiforms and areas of potential hydrothermal
alteration highlighted in yellow. The strongest alteration signature in the image is along the
detachment fault antiform located closest to the Mesquite mine and the Mount Barrow pluton
responsible for the Mesquite gold mineralization (Frost, 1990). By changing the SPOT
backdrop to radar (Figure 8) and keeping the Landsat TM alteration data, the topography is
readily observed as it highlights antiformal-synformal geometry, as well as dipslopes and
fracture patterns.

By mapping a larger area, the Mesquite mine was discovered to be located within an
accommodation zone (Figure 9). The southern Chocolate Mountains dip to the southwest,
and are interpreted to have had a Tertiary northeast upper-plate transport direction, while the
Trigo Mountains, located to the northeast across the Colorado river in Arizona, have had an
opposite or southwest Tertiary upper-plate transport direction. The Mesquite mine is
positioned at the southwest termination of the accommodation zone between these two dip
domains, which is characterized by a northeasterly striking topographic low. This
accommodation zone was first observed through a Landsat TM Bands 7-4-1 color composite
image where volcanic dipslopes, extensional faults and dikes, and the general geometry of the
ranges were mapped (Figure 10). Radar data used to image the structure highlighted the
linear topographic low of this accommodation zone that trends through the Mesquite mine
and continues northeasterly for more than 60 km (Figure 11).

3.0 Alteration Mapping

The goals for producing alteration images for the ARC were to optimally depict all spectral
properties that may be related to alteration and then prioritize all targets for field evaluation.
There are generally two common types of images used to map hydrothermal alteration: ratios
and select principal components analysis (Loughlin, 1991). In this study, ratio images were
combined with SPOT or radar data to enhance the structural geology that ultimately controls
the areas of mineralization.

Landsat TM Ratios

Band ratioing is a technique that has been used for many years in remote sensing to
effectively display spectral variations (e.g., Goetz et al., 1975). Properly computed band ratio
images display little topographic or geomorphic information because the ratio of reflectivity
of any two bands for a given material is not a function of illumination. Thus, the distinction
between foreslopes and backslopes is lost, while spectral contrasts are enhanced. There are
many types of band ratio images, though a “threshold-modified” four-component technique
(Crippen, 1989) provided the best results of any ratio combination used for alteration
mapping in the arid to semi-arid terranes of this study (Figure 7). Crippen’s four-component
technique uses three band-ratio images (one each for the red, green, and blue output channels)
for the chromatic components of the image (Crippen et al., 1990). The technique then
reintroduces the spatial detail using an achromatic SPOT image or TM band 4 that contains

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spatial detail. Thus, in the final image, colors display spectral information while intensity
primarily displays topographic and geomorphic information.

The three ratios, 3/1, 5/7, and 5/4 of the four-component technique are selected for their
sensitivity to lithologic variables, as previously described, and for their lack of statistical
redundancy (Crippen, 1989, Crippen et al., 1988). In the arid to semi-arid regions in which
we studied (Mojave desert of California and Arizona, NE Baja California, and Durango,
Mexico), these ratios generally are directly related to the presence of ferric iron (3/1), ferrous
iron (5/4) and clays, carbonates and hydroxyl-bearing minerals, and vegetation (5/7).
Adjustment of the data for atmospheric factors is suggested prior to calculation of the ratio
images, otherwise significant distortions of the data, many of which are difficult to detect,
may result (Crippen, 1989). Application of noise-removal routines, such as destriping
(Crippen, 1989), is also beneficially applied to ratio images.

The result of this processing is an image that depicts variations in iron content as variations in
red, (3/1) and blue (5/4), and variations in hydroxyl-bearing minerals (and/or carbonates) as
variations in green, (5/7). Typically, water is black, vegetation is green, desert varnish is blue,
cinder cones are magenta, playa deposits are green if clay rich or red if silty, and
hydrothermally altered areas are yellow. Many other rocks are depicted in blue, green,
magenta, or white (Figure 12). Although this image contains both lithologic and alteration
information that is extremely useful in geological reconnaissance, it is not the best image for
either independent alteration or lithologic mapping. We have found that a threshold
modified, four-component image (Figure 7) provides the best ratio alteration images, while a
7-4-1 color composite (Figure 10) is the best for general lithologic mapping.

Assigning the highest digital numbers to three separate images performs the threshold
modification, while pixels with intermediate to low values are nullified. A 5/7, 3/1, and a
5/7+3/1 combination was used, and was intended to highlight areas of hydroxyl-bearing
minerals, iron-oxides and anomalous concentrations of both hydroxyls and iron-oxides
respectively. These three images, 5/7, 3/1, and a 5/7+3/1 were then classified into green, red,
and yellow opaque colors and draped over a SPOT or radar image (Figures 7 and 8). The
specific areas of hydrothermal alteration are easily observed in the threshold images due to
the sharp boundaries generated in Figures 7 and 8, as compared with Figure 12. Yellow
pixels in Figures 7, 8, and 12 are anomalous concentrations of both hydroxyls and iron-
oxides that may be indicative of limonite, and/or pyritized sericite and/or pyritized argillic
alteration. The yellow signature circled in red in Figures 7 and 8 is a hydrothermally-altered
gold bearing breccia.

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4.0 Radar

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) differs from optical sensors in that optical systems, such as
Landsat TM, are passive and rely on the electromagnetic energy generated from the sun to
image the earth’s surface. Since optical data are collected at frequencies similar to what the
human eye perceives, they are unable to “see” in darkness or cloud cover. SAR alternatively
is an active system that sends its own microwave energy down to earth. Microwaves allow
for atmospheric penetration and, under certain conditions, the penetration of very dry sand or
soil, ice, and vegetation canopies, allowing for exploration not otherwise attainable. This
ability to penetrate clouds and vegetation canopies has established radar as a viable
exploration tool around the mid-latitudes where near constant cloud cover exists and outcrops
are few due to jungle cover. However, this study shows that radar can be very beneficial in
arid to semiarid terranes due to its ability to highlight subtle structures unobservable by
optical data.

Figure 11 is a color composite SIR-C image of the southeastern California, southwestern


Arizona area. It was produced by assigning red, green, and blue to C band (6-cm
wavelength) horizontally transmitted and horizontally received, C band horizontally
transmitted and vertically received, and L band (24 cm wavelength) horizontally transmitted
and horizontally received, respectively. The look angle is to the northeast with an incidence
angle of 44 degrees. This highlights topographic and roughness features that are northwest
striking, and inclined toward southeast or the look angle. The color differences are a
consequence of topographic changes, moisture content, and surface roughness. The most
important feature in this image is the northeast-trending topographic low between the red
arrows. This feature is interpreted to be a transfer fault related to the late stage development
of an accommodation zone structure that trends for approximately 60 km and cuts between
the two major orebodies that comprise of the Mesquite mine. Figure 8 is an L band
horizontally transmitted and horizontally received SIR-C gray scale image with a Landsat
alteration drape. The radar-alteration merge provides an effective way to locate structurally
controlled hydrothermal fluids associated with mineralization.

5.0 Results and Conclusions

The use of digitally enhanced optical and radar data has proven to provide profound
exploration insights when interactively used by the field geologist. This integration of
interactively used imagery data with a regional understanding of extensional terranes and ore
genesis has already provided new opportunities for LCI, and, potentially in time, the entire
mining industry as a result of this much valued ARC study. This study has provided a new
method for LCI to efficiently inspect large areas of interest for mineral potential by using a
straightforward yet sophisticated procedure developed by the highly knowledgeable members
involved from the SDSU Geology and Geography Departments.

The computer and remote sensing training provided by SDSU and NASA were recognized to
be extremely beneficial to LCI whereby they were immediately adopted and integrated into

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ongoing exploration programs conducted concurrently with the ARC program. This proved
to be extremely advantageous and resulted in multiple business accomplishments:

• A greater than 50% success rate in the recognition of hydrothermal systems through
Landsat TM alteration mapping was accomplished as compared to a previous less than
10% success rate from prior “hard copy interpretations” of the same general area.

• In a separate area of interest, Landsat TM interpretations resulted in the discovery of two


virgin mineral systems that where targeted from the mapping of five full Landsat TM
scenes.

• These successes have furthered an established relationship between LCI and SDSU, and
many students have expressed an enthusiastic interest in working with remotely sensed
data in an exploration mode. Besides Steve Polis, who represented LCI in this study and
completed his thesis on the same topic ultimately leading to a related career, other SDSU
graduate students are now working with LCI with similar aspirations. One of these
students has already demonstrated the utility of multispectral thermal infrared imagery
from the NASA Stennis ATLAS system in discriminating mineral alteration. This is
viewed as a positive relationship whereby LCI can benefit from ongoing related academic
research, while SDSU students and faculty can stay abreast with industry needs to provide
future geoscientists to find the much needed natural resources that the world demands.

6.0 References

Anderson, R. E., 1971, Thin skin distension in Tertiary rocks of southeastern Nevada:
Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 82, p 43-58.

Bosworth, W., Lambiase, J., and Keislar, R., 1986, A new look at Gregory’s rift: The
structural Style of continental rifting: EOS (American Geophysical Union Transactions), v.
67, p. 577- 583.

Crippen, R. E., 1989, Development of remote sensing techniques for the investigation of
neotectonic activity, eastern Transverse Ranges and vicinity, southern California, Ph.D.
thesis, Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara, 304p., 1989b.

Crippen, R. E., R. G. Blom, and J. R. Heyada,1988, Directed band ratioing for the retention
of perceptually-independent topographic expression in chromaticity-enhanced imagery,
International Journal of Remote Sensing, 9, 749-765.

Crippen, R. E., E. J. Hajic, J. E. Estes, and R. G. Blom,1990, Statistical band and band-ratio
selection to maximize spectral information in color composite displays, in preparation for
submission to International Journal of Remote Sensing.

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Faulds, J. E., Mawar, C. K., and Gaisaman, J. W., 1987, Possible modes of deformation
along "accommodation zones" in rifted continental crust: Geological Society of America
Abstracts with Programs, v.19, p.659-660.

Frost, D.M., 1990, Gold ore has distinctive lead isotopic "fingerprint": Geological Society of
America Abstracts with Programs, v.22, no.3, p.24.

Frost and Heidrick, 1996, Tertiary extension and mineral deposits, Southwestern United
States: Society of Economic Geologists, v. 25, p. 26-37.

Goetz, F. H., F. C. Billingsley, A. R. Gillespie, M. J. Abrams, R. L. Squires, E. M.


Shoemaker, I. Lucchitta, and D. P. Elston,1975, Application of ERTS images and image
processing to regional problems and geological mapping in northern Arizona, JPL Technical
Report 32-1S97.

Lister, G. S., Etheridge, N. A., and Symonds, P. A., 1986, Detachment faulting and the
evolution of passive continental margins: Geology, v. 14, p. 246-250.

Loughtin, W. P., 1990. Geological exploration in the western United States by use of airborne
scanner imagery. ERIM Conference: Remote Sensing, an Operational Technology for the
Mining and Petroleum Industries. London, 29-31 Oct., pp. 22~241.

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Figure 1. Tertiary dip domain map of the southern Basin and Range Province.
This map shows the strike and dip of tilted mid-Tertiary (35-15 Ma) sedimentary and
volcanic rocks as summarized by Rebrig and Heidrick (1976, Fig. 4). Superimposed on the
data is the tilt-block domain terminology proposed by Spencer and Reynolds (1989). The
Province is divided somewhat proportionally into three mega-domains including the Lake
Mead, Whipple, and San Pedro. Each of these domains can be traced along strike for 250-300
kilometers and covers between 30,000 and 35,000 square kilometers. These domains are
separated along complex lateral transfer and accommodation zones. (Frost and Heidrick,
1996)

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Figure 2. Generalized geologic map of the northern part of the Colorado River Trough
and adjacent region.
The area of the Colorado River trough is surrounded to the west, north, and east by large
zones showing only minor amounts of extension at exposed crustal levels. Within the
Colorado River extensional corridor, however, stretching factors (B) vary between 1.5 and
2.5. The boundary separating the WSW-tilted Whipple domain from the ENE-tilted Lake
Mead domain is referred to as the Whipple-Lake Mead “Accommodation Zone.” Data
modified after Faulds et al. (1988). (Frost and Heidrick, 1996)

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Figure 3. Diagrammatic representation of opposite polarity tilt patterns in extensional
terranes as separated by a strike-slip or transfer fault (A) or an accommodation zone
(B).
(A) is a drawing of the model of Liggett and Ehrenspeck (1973), which was developed for
this region to explain the interrelationship between extension, tilts, and strike-slip faulting.
(B) shows how opposite polarity tilt domains can be produced using opposite-tilted
detachment faults separated by an accommodation zone, which is a model suggested for
African rifts by Bosworth (1985). Domains in this model are linked by the accommodation
zone, which is almost a null zone of apparent surface deformation rather than a strike-slip
fault. (Frost and Heidrick, 1996)

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Figure 4. Geometric and kinematic characteristics of Neogene extensional deformation,
Colorado River extensional corridor, NV, AZ, and CA. (Frost and Heidrick, 1996)

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Figure 5. Detachment fault-fold geometry and deep-crustal structure, Colorado River
extensional terrane, as based on CALCRUST and reprocessed industry seismic lines.
Multiple normal faults descend into middle-crustal ductile zone and offset early-formed
mylonitic zone. Active mylonitic zone remains sub-horizontal (parallel to earth's surface). As
normal faults offset ductile fabric, exhumation of once middle-crustal rock is a product of the
offset on the normal faults and tilting over of the bounding normal faults. Extensional fabric
traced westward from the Whipple terrane extends, perhaps somewhat discontinuously, to the
Central Mojave detachment terrane mapped by workers such as Roy Dokka and Allen
Glazner. (Frost and Heidrick, 1996)

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Figure 6. Diagrammatic model of crustal extension showing truncation of upper-plate
normal faults at depth into a gently inclined detachment fault.
Just as the faults are truncated at depth, they are truncated along strike by the wave-like, or
fluted detachment surface. Such truncation of the upper-plate fault panels is readily visible on
TM and radar images and can identify the presence and geometry of the major detachment
faults. (Frost and Heidrick, 1996)

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Figure 7. A SPOT-Landsat TM ratio threshold merge of the area around the southern
Chocolate Mountains illustrating extensional antiforms and areas of potential
hydrothermal alteration highlighted in yellow.

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Figure 8. A SIR-C radar Landsat TM threshold merge of the area around the Mesquite
mine.
This image highlights the hydrothermal alteration from the TM data, as well as the
antiformal-synformal geometry, dipslopes, and fracture patterns from the radar.

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Figure 9. An over-simplified structural model depicting the Mesquite mine located
within a newly interpreted accommodation zone.

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Figure 10. Landsat TM 741 color composite image of the southern Colorado River
illustrating extensional faults and the newly interpreted accommodation zone.

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Figure 11. A SIR-C radar color composite with interpreted Tertiary upper-plate
transport directions and accommodation zone structure illustrated.
The composite is produced by assigning red, green, and blue to C band (6-cm wavelength)
horizontally transmitted and horizontally received, C band horizontally transmitted and
vertically received, and L band (24-cm wavelength) horizontally transmitted and horizontally
received, respectively. The look angle is to the northeast with an incidence angle of 44
degrees.

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Figure 12. A Landsat TM ratio color composite of the area around the Mesquite mine.
The image depicts variations in iron content as variations in red, (3/1) and blue (5/4), and
variations in hydroxyl-bearing minerals (and/or carbonates) as variations in green, (5/7).

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Appendix A. Technical Proposal

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

ARC PROJECT SUMMARY

Project Title: Integrated Use of Remote Sensing and GIS for Mineral Exploration.

Technical Abstract

La Cuesta International is a San Diego, California-based mineral exploration firm


specializing in precious metal ore deposit exploration in the United States, Mexico, and Latin
America.

The proposed project is to develop the procedures and demonstrate the feasibility of using
broad-band and hyperspectral remotely sensed data to identify extensional geologic structures
associated with precious metal deposition. The resulting procedure will provide the basis for
making available a new exploration service for the mining industry.

Recognition of major gold deposits formed in association with Tertiary crustal extension in
the western U.S. has been established and similar occurrences are now being recognized
globally. Current mineral exploration concepts have failed to recognize the association of
mineralization with unique extensional structures called accommodation zones. These zones,
described below, show little obvious deformation, yet focus fluid migration and
mineralization into predictable regions of the crust. Integrating remotely sensed data with
existing geologic data provides a unique opportunity to identify the location of these
previously unrecognized zones. Guided by an understanding of accommodation zones,
remotely sensed data would be utilized to locate appropriate structural targets, which would
then be inspected with hyperspectral data and ground verification, to establish the viability of
the target area. This procedure is not a simple cookbook process for companies like La
Cuesta who are familiar with the geology, but unfamiliar with remote sensing and spatial
information technologies. La Cuesta is highly motivated to work with remote sensing and
recognizes the vast potential it offers to the mineral exploration profession.

Accommodation Zones:
In areas of crustal extension, the crust breaks along a multitude of normal faults, commonly
termed an “array,” with different segments having different transport directions as in Figure
A-1. These segmented sections are at a scale of ~50 to 300 km. Within these extensional
terranes, transport of major regions is in one uniform direction. However, zones with
opposite transport generally exist in adjacent domains. Between these zones of opposite
transport, some zone of deformation must exist to allow opposite motion to occur during the
same deformation phase. These zones have been called “accommodation zones,” and have
only recently been recognized within extensional systems on a worldwide basis.

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Accommodation zones link the normal fault arrays of opposing transport directions. These
regions are actually zones of little obvious deformation, appearing not as strike-slip faults but
brecciated zones because the entire volume of rock has been affected.

Because accommodation zones represent areas of vergence reversal within extensional


terranes at the up-dip tips of the regional faults (Figure 1), they focus fluid migration and
mineralization into predictable regions of the crust. The Nelson District in southern Nevada
is an excellent example where alteration and mineralization occur within an accommodation
zone. The zone is between two opposite facing regions of extensional transport which can be
discerned on the regional tectonic maps and point directly to major gold mineralization.

The three dimensionality of extended crust has been well documented by petroleum
industries through high-quality, three-dimensional seismic investigations. These seismic
studies have demonstrated the presence of accommodation structures in nearly all the
extensional terranes in the world. Within these zones, mineralized fluids flow toward and
saturate portions of the accommodation zones. Knowledge of how accommodation zone
tectonics localizes fluid flow processes allows researchers to target discrete areas for detailed
exploration within the much larger extensional terrane.

The association of accommodation zones with mineralization is due to three main factors;
1. Accommodation zones are deep-crustal breaks that often become syntectonic volcanic
centers because they localize the magmatic material, thus becoming an elongate volcanic
and plutonic center that intrudes out from existing fault zones and provides the thermal
dynamic energy to drive mineralized fluids.
2. There is an increase in brecciation and the number of faults with a net decrease in the
average fault slip within the accommodation zone, making the faulting more subtle but
opening much larger volumes of extended rock. This provides excellent long-term
permeability for multi-generational fluid flow and subsequent mineralization.
3. The geometry is such that a localized compressional stress regime forms anticlinal
culminations located structurally up-dip from the normal faults it separates or
“accommodates” on either side. This extensional geometry provides a flow-path from
multiple normal faults toward the accommodation zones where mineralization can occur
repeatedly as the faults continue to break through time.

Broad-band remotely sensed image processing provides a powerful method to search for
accommodation zones. Because the aerial extent of opposite dip domains is so large, the
location of accommodation zones is easily missed by traditional methods of looking only at
the field data and large-scale maps. Because recognition of opposite dip domains has not
been part of traditional field investigation methods, many of the geologic maps and their
syntheses are simply inadequate to discern accommodation zone structures.

Remote sensing literature documents the capability of broad-band airborne and satellite
imagery to detect geologic structure and in some instances, hydrothermally altered areas.
Broad-band imagery shows geologic structure and enables the geologist to synthesize the
tectonics and also discern the locations of hydrothermal alteration. By studying the linkage

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between alteration and accommodation zones, exploration targets for analysis can be
identified. Unfortunately, broad-band data cannot distinguish individual “indicator” minerals
required to further evaluate target areas. Hyperspectral sensor resolution allows the
identification of many indicator minerals based upon their characteristic narrow absorption
bands. However, by combining broad-band and hyperspectral data into an integrated
collection and analysis method, broad-band data can be used to identify structural features
which in combination with traditional geologic data can indicate the presence of
accommodation zones, while hyperspectral data can provide the ability to detect
hydrothermal alteration and indicator minerals. Image analysis coupled with an understanding
of the tectonic processes and significance of the localized alteration provides a powerful tool
for exploration.

The suggested program would involve several stages. First, existing geologic and
geochemical data would be assembled and entered into a geographic information system
(GIS) as required. Broad-band remotely sensed imagery would be acquired and in
conjunction with GIS-processed geologic data be analyzed to define regional areas likely to
contain accommodation zones. Hyperspectral data would be acquired for accommodation
zone target areas and analyzed to determine the presence of hydrothermal alteration and ore-
body indicator minerals. Field surveys may be required to refine remote sensing
discrimination signatures to improve detection and refine spatial distribution.

Geologic, geochemical, fault, gravity and stream-sediment maps will be obtained from state
and Federal sources by La Cuesta. Broad band imagery will be acquired from SDSU archival
sources. Selected hyperspectral data from existing NASA (JPL) archives will be requested
from NASA ARC. GIS and remote sensing software and computing support will be provided
by SDSU. Technical guidance and assistance in developing the data integration and analysis
procedures will be provided by SDSU with occasional consultations with NASA remote
sensing specialists. La Cuesta will commit a full-time geologist to work with SDSU. La
Cuesta principals and technical specialists will be available to participate with SDSU staff as
appropriate.

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Figure A-1. Diagrammatic representation of opposite polarity tilt patterns in
extensional terranes as separated by a strike-slip or transfer fault (A) or an
accommodation zone (B).
(A) is a drawing of the model of Liggett and Ehrenspeck (1973), which was developed for
this region to explain the interrelationship between extension, tilts and strike-slip faults. (B)
shows how opposite polarity tilts domains can be produced using opposite-tilted detachment
faults separated by an accommodation zone, which is a model suggested for African rifts by
Bosworth (1985). Domains in this model are linked by the accommodation zone, which is
almost a null zone of apparent surface deformation rather than a strike-slip fault.

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Appendix B. Commercial Proposal

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

ARC PROJECT SUMMARY

Project Title: Integrated Use of Remote Sensing and GIS for Mineral Exploration

Commercial Applications

Remotely-sensed imagery is a powerful tool for mineral exploration when properly utilized.
Unfortunately, many geologists are skeptical of the use of remote sensing products because of
previous false “positive” indicators which resulted in “chasing” spectral anomalies. This is
largely due to the gap in information integration between geologists and the remote sensing
community. The need for understanding regional geology and structure is critical for remote
sensing to be a fully effective exploration tool. La Cuesta feels that the existing resistance to
using remote sensing products by geologists provides an excellent business opportunity to
synthesize geologic understanding with image-processing and provide an improved and
valuable exploration service for mining companies.

Today’s computer technology has provided a method by which geologists can use remote
sensing and GIS software to integrate field knowledge, structural geology, and remote sensed
imagery. NASA’s Affiliated Research Center (ARC) program provides an excellent
opportunity for La Cuesta to demonstrate the practical application of the approach as an
improved method of mineral exploration and a basis for developing future exploration
contracts with the mining industry worldwide.

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Appendix C. Schedule

Integrated Remote Sensing and GIS VIP Project Schedule


1997
Project Tasks Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Prepare MOA
2 12

Data Collection
8 17

Software Training
8 19

Broad Band Analysis


30 31

Progress Assessment
6

Hyperspectral Training
23 30

Data Integration & Analysis


20 31

Final Report Preparation


25 22

Project Evaluation
4

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