Show me the gold!

ZZYZX – This past weekend, Dr. Burmeister’s structural geology course travelled to the Mojave Desert. After a quick stop at Rainbow Basin to learn how to use topographic maps, air photos, and LiDAR datasets, we spent the rest of the weekend mapping the bedrock geology of the southern Salt Spring Hills. Not only does the Salt Spring Hills have a lot to offer in terms of structural relationships, but it was also the site of a series of (ultimately unsuccessful) gold mines during the mid to late 1800′s – the field area is packed with mineralized zones and abandoned mine workings.

This year we were fortunate to be joined by field trip co-leader Juan Contreras (Univ of Illinois, ’10). Juan is a geologist with Newmont Mining Corporation and is an expert in Carlin-type gold deposits. With Juan’s help, Dr. Burmeister tweaked his existing Salt Spring Hills mapping exercise into an even more very realistic gold prospect evaluation experience. Within the scope of a mock contract from Newmont Mining Corp, Pacific students used their knowledge to collect the very same data that an economic geologist would collect on the job. Students were asked to map geologic structures and zones of potentially gold-bearing mineralization. They were given a budget of “12 million dollars” and asked to identify the targets for surface and subsurface (via RC drilling) assays that would be needed to begin a production phase at the Salt Spring Hills site. The results of their site assessments will be compiled into professional reports and presented to “bosses” from “Newmont Mining Corp” in the coming weeks… maybe we’ll all get rich!!!

While in the desert, the crew stayed at the Desert Studies Center (DSC) at Zzyzx, CA. The DSC is a research station maintained by the California State University system and is designed to support research and teaching in remote parts of the Mojave. The site has a long history – it was mineral bath retreat in the early to mid 1900′s before it was purchased by the CSU system. It offers wonderful cabins and dorm-style rooms, hot showers, and classroom spaces.

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