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The distribution and behaviour of gold in soils in the vicinity of gold mineralization, Nickel Plate mine, southern British Columbia Sibbick, Steven John Norman


Sampling of soils and till are conventional methods of gold exploration in glaciated regions. However, the exact nature of the residence sites and behaviour of gold within soil and till are poorly known. A gold dispersion train extending from the Nickel Plate mine, Hedley, southwest British Columbia, was investigated in order to determine the distribution and behaviour of gold within soils developed from till. Three hundred and twelve soil, till and humus samples (representing LFH, A, B and C horizons) were collected from fifty-two soil pits and thirty-four roadcut locations within the dispersion train. Soil and till samples were sieved into four size fractions; the resultant -212 micron (-70 mesh) fraction of each sample was analysed for Au by FA-AAS. Humus samples were ground to -100 micron powder and analysed for Au by INAA. Based on the analytical results, each LFH, A, B and C horizon was subdivided into anomalous and background populations. Detailed size and density fraction analysis was carried out on soil profiles reflecting anomalous and background populations, and a mixed group of samples representing the overlap between both populations. Samples were sieved to six size fractions; three of the size fractions (-420+212, -212+106, -106+53 microns) were separated into two density fractions using methylene iodide and analysed for Au by FA-AAS. The Au content of the -53 micron fraction was analysed by FA-AAS and cyanide extraction - AAS. Results indicate that the Au content of soil profiles increase with depth while decreasing with distance from the minesite. Heavy mineral concentrates and the light mineral fraction Au abundances reveal that dilution by a factor of 3.5 occurs within the till over a distance of 800 metres. However, free gold within the heavy mineral fraction is both diluted and comminuted with distance. Recombination of size and density fractions indicate that the Au contents of each size fraction are equivalent; variation in Au abundance is not observed with a change in grain size. Seventy percent of the Au in the -53 micron fraction occurs as free gold. Chemical activity has not altered the composition of gold grains within the soil profiles. Compositional and morphological differences between gold grains are not indicative of glacial transport distance or location within the soil profile. Relative abundances of gold grains between sample locations can be used as an indicator of proximity to the minesite. The sampling medium with the best sample representivity and contrast between anomalous and background populations is the -53 micron (-270 mesh) fraction of the C horizon. Geochemical soil sampling programs in the vicinity of the Nickel Plate mine should collect a minimum mass of 370 grams of -2000 micron (-2 mm) soil fraction in order to obtain 30 grams of the -53 micron fraction.

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