Thursday, January 7, 2010
Mountains Move Slowly, Time Passes Quickly
It is 6:41 AM. Do you have time for a cup of Thor's java with the Colonel and a quick story? On my recent trip to Austin, I was reminded why Eureka County sits in the heart of North America's gold country, an important lesson in motion and time.
As you leave Diamond Valley on Highway 50 and pass through Devil's Gate, look to your right (headline photograph). Those layered rocks above you are are some 350 million years old, once shallow-water beds of Devonian dolomite and limestone. They sit now at an angle after being thrust up by a tremendous collision with siliceous rocks (quartzite, shale and chert) from ancient deep-water seabeds. The line of this Paleozoic fender bender is called the Roberts Mountains Thrust Belt. Along this belt gold mineralization often occurred at the point of contact between the carbonate and siliceous rocks. The Roberts trend extends through Eureka and Elko counties and has recently (at least in geologic time) been very generous to both miners and local governments through the open pit extraction of Carlin-type (microscopic) gold.
What caused this collision? Let's ask Lone Mountain, she's coming up just to the northwest of the Roberts Creek turnoff. Now you say there are grander peaks than this in the local mountain ranges, our own Diamond Peak is some 11,000 feet of towering beauty. This lowly homely mountain to our right isn't even in a range but sits alone in a vast alluvial basin. Well Pardner, don't let this old gal hear you say that! Lone Mountain may have lost her height and looks but she's the oldest around and can tell a story of travel you won't believe.
Plate tectonics is how scientists describe the process and good old Benjamin Franklin was the first to think of it way back in 1782: "The crust of the Earth must be a shell floating on a fluid interior. Thus the surface of the globe would be capable of being broken and disordered by the violent movements of the fluids on which it rested." Say, Ben is talking about our local gold-rich fender bender!
In her youth Lone Mountain grew up in the Southern Hemisphere some 10,000 miles away. She is living proof that the earth's surface is adrift; large rigid plates moving in response to the flow of a heat-softened interior near the surface (asthenosphere) and a molten interior (upper and lower mantle). At Lone Mountain's base is Pogonip limestone that dates back some 500,000,000 years. That works out to be an average of about one and a quarter inches of travel per year. She has witnessed the Roberts Mountain accident and probably many others in her long traveling career. Buckaroos, mountains move slowly but time passes quickly. I'll bet you'll pay my old friend a bit more respect the next time you pass and a little thanks for being a part of what brought gold to Eureka County.
By the by, some of this story was derived from "Traveling America's Loneliest Road" by Joseph V. Tingley and Kris Ann Pizarro (Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Special Publication 26, 2000). A great book for your travels!
Enough tall tales, let's walk the walk:
4-WD is OFF - the VIX or "fear index" remains below 25; smoother road market conditions expected to continue (what's this?)
Yellow light is ON for our fuel gauge with oil above $80
Yellow light is ON for possible adverse regulation/legislation: Cortez Hills & mercury emissions
Otherwise, all lights are green on the Eureka Outlook Dashboard (upper right, what's this?)
Oil is down $0.23 in early trading to $82.95 (February contract, most active); Gold is down $1.60 to $1134.9 (February contract, most active); Silver is up $0.050 to $18.225 (March contract); Copper is down $0.0260 to $3.4685 (March contract); Molybdenum got a little more jump to $13.50.
The DOW is up 2.95 points to 10576.63; the S&P 500 is up 0.29 points to 1137.43. The miners are mixed:
Barrick (ABX) $41.22 down 1.29%
Newmont (NEM) $49.15 down 0.93%
General Moly (Eureka Moly, LLC) (GMO) $2.45 unchanged
Thompson Creek (TC) $13.68 up 1.11%
Freeport McMoran (FCX) $86.27 down 1.19% (a bellwether mining stock spanning gold, copper & molybdenum)
The Steels are mixed, (a "tell" for General Moly & Thompson Creek):
ArcelorMittal (MT) $47.81 up 0.21% - global steel producer
POSCO (PKX) $134.08 down 1.56% - South Korean integrated steel producer
The Eureka Miner's Grubstake Portfolio is is down 0.40% to $1,350,477.92 (what is this?).
Headline Photograph by Mariana Titus (Devil's Gate, Nevada)