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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


The Western Syncline hosts reduced-facies, or Kupferschiefer-type, sedimentary rock-hosted stratiform Cu deposits (SSC) in the lowermost meters of the Nonesuch Formation, which is part of a thick section of clastic sedimentary rocks that comprise the upper fill of the Mesoproterozoic Midcontinent Rift of North America. Located in the Porcupine Mountains Cu district in Upper Peninsula, Michigan, these blind deposits were discovered in 1956, but are not yet developed, although recent renewed interest may result in near-term production. The deposits are distinguished by their relatively undeformed nature and lack of superposed hydrothermal events. Prior to lithification, chalcocite mineralization replaced diagenetic pyrite within two discrete tabular, albeit discontinuous, potential orebodies referred to as the lower Cu-bearing sequence (LCBS) and the upper Cu-bearing sequence (UCBS). The Top Cu Zone transgresses lithologic boundaries, suggesting that a limited volume of Cu-bearing fluids moved vertically upwards through the unlithified stratigraphy, since reductant pyritic rocks above this zone are essentially barren of Cu. The total Cu inventory that has a reasonable expectation of economic extraction is 3678 M lbs. of Cu with 15.3 M oz. of byproduct Ag. When a cutoff grade of 0.9% Cu over a minimum thickness of 2 m is applied to justify an underground room-and-pillar mine, the LCBS and UCBS are not continuous over the Western Syncline. Sedimentology is the first-order control of potential ore and its continuity; dark-gray shales and siltstones deposited under low-energy, anoxic conditions are preferred host rocks, whose thickness must be >2 m to be potential ore since host-rock thickness determines economic viability of extraction. Furthermore, stratigraphy influences the time constraints on mineralization as the lithification process impedes vertical permeability and thus the flow of Cu-bearing fluids upward through the unlithified section. Syn-sedimentary tectonic movements, likely along pre-existing buried faults, are a third-order control as the thickness of host rocks is enhanced under such conditions. Therefore, an understanding of the depositional and tectonic history throughout the Western Syncline is fundamental to understanding the limits of possible economic exploitation and to optimizing ore extraction.

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