Monday, July 25, 2011

Is there Gold on Navajo Mountain?

For years I have been hearing rumors of gold found on or around Navajo Mountain. I had pretty much written them off as unfounded rumors due to the fact that I have never seen any fold from Navajo mountain, never talked to anyone that has personally found any; coupled with the fact that it is considered to be “sacred” land and the Indians don't want any prospectors going up there. That being said, there is a documented history of mining in the area. In fact, an old Indian named “Hashkeniinii” was rumored to have a rich silver mine on the mountain; and several years later, there were four prospectors killed on Navajo Mountain, as they were searching for the silver mine.

   In the late 1940's, there was also a uranium boom on Navajo Mountain, when Luke Yazzie, a local Navajo, brought rich uranium ore into a trading post in Monument Valley. A large mining company company came in and put a mine in on the ledge where Luke got his ore, making the tribe a lot of money while though Luke got nothing but a free lunch.

   Navajo mountain sits just to the north of the Arizona-Utah state line in south central Utah—in the heart of Navajo Country—and was originally called Sierra Panoche. It is a tall, isolated dome that reaches up to 10,416 feet in elevation, and is formed by a mushroom shaped volcanic intrusion called a laccolith. It is an important source of water for the region, a source for game, and contains the only stand of limber pine in Navajo country.

   Apparently Navajos regard it as sacred because Navajo Mountain is the the “head” of a Navajo maiden, whose “body” is formed by four regional mountains. (This is similar to the Ute legend of the Maiden whose body can be seen in the Timpanogos mountain above Provo UT).

   Navajo mountain is located completely on Navajo land, and the Navajos offer permits for hiking and camping—but apparently getting one can be a hit or miss proposition, depending on who you talk to, or what mood they are in. One thing that I do know is that mining and prospecting will not be considered. (That is one of the reasons I have not looked too hard into the rumors of gold around Navajo Mountain).

   I have lately been researching the Abajo Mountains, and Blanding Mesa, and came across a a paper called Potential for Alkaline Igneous Rock-Related Gold Deposits in the Colorado Plateau by Felix Mutschler, Edwain Larsen and Micheal Ross. In this paper, they discussed the composition of the laccoliths in southern Utah and correlated the intrusions with gold mineralization. Gold occurrences are found in the Henry mountains, in the La Sal mountains, and in the Blues (or Abajo mountains). These three mountains are also closely related in many other ways: spatially-they are all relatively close together geographically; they are structurally similar—all three of these intrusions being laccoliths; age—the laccoliths all have similar ages of emplacement, with the dates of the intrusion being set at between 23 and 32 million years ago; and they are chemically similar—with a similar composition of both rock type and mineralogy—they are all diorite porphyries, and all have gold (or copper gold) mineralization. These three are also closely related to 3 more laccoliths in western Colorado that are also mineralized with copper, gold or silver. Navajo mountain was included smack dab in the middle of the list of diorite porphyry laccoliths is Navajo Mountain, and it shares all the same characteristics as the other laccoliths in the region.

Here is a good photo of several pieces of river worn diorite porphyry, and it is often associated associated with gold. This photo was taken in Cottonwood Wash with gravel from the Blanding Mesa. The original source of the diorite porphyry is the Abajo laccolith.

 
   If all of the other diorite porphyry laccoliths are minereralized—most containing gold—then there is a very good chance of finding gold on Navajo Mountain. It is possible that there are small placers in the areas drainage's. More importantly, as the paper pointed out, there may be larger, low sulfide, sediment hosted micron gold deposits similar to the Carlin style deposits in the surrounding area. Its is worth noting that the low-sulfide micron deposits are a possibility not just at Navajo mountain, but would make good exploration targets for the La Sal mountains, the Henry mountains and the Blue mountains as well.

   Even though mining an prospecting are off-limits, Navajo mountain would be a great place to explore. There are several 14 mile trails that take you out to Rainbow Bridge—the worlds largest, free standing natural rock arch, as well as miles of forest and high desert. Take a camera.

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