Geology and Mineral Resources of the Babine Mountains Recreation Area(NTS 093L/14, 15; 093M/2, 3)
Paper 1992 - 5
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Paper 1992-5 describes the geology and mineral potential of the Babine Mountains Recreation Area in west central British Columbia, which is a candidate for Class A park status. At the request of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, in accordance with the requirements of Section 19 of the Mineral Tenure Act, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources conducted a mineral resource potential study, the results of which are presented herein.
There is concern that potentially economic resources may be included if the area is reclassified from a recreation area to a park without provision to test this possibility by allowing mineral exploration first. The present recreation area boundary encompasses a metal resource-rich region:
- there are twenty-three mineral prospects of which seven are past-producing mines
- prospects contain identified resources in the ground,
- three of the prospects were found during the course of this study, which demonstrates favourable mineral potential for the area.
The early history of mineral exploration in the region is essentially coincident with the population influx of the post fir-trade era. Many of the pioneering explorers, prospectors and miners have lent their names to the mountain peaks, rivers, creeks and trails within the area. Many of the prospects date to the turn of the century. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the mineral claims predate the establishment of the recreation area.
The Babine Mountains Recreation Area is 15 kilometres northeast of Smithers and covers much of the southern part of the Babine Range. The region is underlain by volcanic and sedimentary rocks 65 to 200 million years old; granitic rocks are the youngest rocks and are generally less than 65 million years old. The rocks accumulated in subaerial to submarine environments, which are analogous to a modern volcanic island-arc, such as the Aleutian volcanic mountain chain of Alaska. The nature and distribution of metallic mineral deposits in the recreation area is a reflection of processes that were active during and after deposition of the hostrocks: these include intrusion of granitic rocks with circulation of metal-rich hydrothermal fluids, and development of faults and fracture zones along which metal-rich hydrothermal fluids were focused.
Three types of metallic mineral deposits occur within the Babine Mountains Recreation Area: porphyry copper-molybdenum deposits associated with granitic rocks (such as the Big Onion deposit), silver-rich polymetallic veins associated generally with volcanic and sedimentary rocks (such as the Cronin deposit) and copper-silver veins contained in volcanic rocks (as at the Drift prospect).
Historical production of metal has been from silver-rich polymetallic veins and basalt-hosted copper-silver veins: past-producers were mostly small-scale operations because of the small size of the deposits. By comparison, the Big Onion porphyry copper-molybdenum deposit dwarfs other mineral deposits in the area.
The evaluation of the mineral resource potential of the recreation area required the integration of all available geological, geochemical and mineral occurrence information. Mineral potential estimates rate the probability that an area contains mineral deposits of a particular type, based on the presence of favourable criteria. Favourable criteria include: the presence of favourable geology (as determined by geological mapping); anomalous concentrations of characteristic base or precious metals in rock or stream-sediment samples; and the nature of known mineral occurrences (such as mineral showings, prospects, developed prospects with identified resources, and past-producers). Areas where favourable criteria overlap (for a particular mineral deposit type) indicate a greater degree of confidence, or an increased likelihood for a mineral deposit to occur: these areas are therefore assigned a higher mineral potential.
Three domains of high to extreme mineral potential were outlined during this study. Domain A has very high potential for silver-rich polymetallic veins, and includes identified metal resources at the Cronin mine, four other past-producers and eight prospects (including three found during this study). The region is centred about a volcanic complex at Mount Cronin, which is thought to be an important source of metals for these deposits. Consequently, there is potential for silver-rich polymetallic veins across the central part of the recreation area. Much historical interest in silver-rich polymetallic veins has been focused at the metal resources that remain underground at the Cronin mine. At this time, however, there is little exploration or development of silver-rich polymetallic veins.
Domain B has high to very high potential for basalt-hosted copper-silver veins, and includes two past producers and three prospects: the domain generally outlines the distribution of the favourable hostrocks to these veins.
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