Geology and Genesis of the Chrysotlle Asbestos Deposits of Northern Appalachia

Lamarche, Robert Y.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 13
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
INTRODUCTION Production of chrysotile asbestos from the northern Appalachians has been going on for 100 years and, on the basis of known reserves and the present rates of mining, appears assured of continued production for at least another 25 to 30 years. In spite of this, mining companies and government agencies are showing an increasing interest in exploring for chrysotile asbestos throughout this region and elsewhere in the world, implying that increases in the rate of consumption are envisioned. This chapter describes the geologic and tectonic settings surrounding these important chrysotile deposits, with emphasis on those in southern Quebec that yield about 90% of the total production from the northern Appala- chians. Detailed descriptions of a few individual deposits are also given, along with exploration guidelines aimed at facilitating the discovery of additional chrysotile deposits. One section of this chapter deals with the origin and mode of formation of the chrysotile deposits in the light of modern day concepts of plate tectonics. The objectives of this chapter are to give a brief description of the geologic and tectonic settings of the ultramafic rocks in which the numerous chrysotile deposits of the northern Appalachians are found; to describe a few of the individual deposits; to give a few exploration guidelines for those interested in exploring for new asbestos deposits in similar geologic environments; and to propose a new model for asbestos genesis in light of the recently developed theories of global tectonics. As this chapter is based almost entirely on field and laboratory observations, rather than on the study of experimental laboratory models, most of our deductions and suggestions are empirical in nature and may be interpreted in more than one way. The interpretations we have selected seem to offer, we feel, the best explanation of observed geological phenomena (Lamarche and Wicks, 1975). This region had a production capability in 1979 of close to p.5 Mt of chrysotile asbestos with 92% of this tonnage being derived from the deposits of the Eastern Townships of Quebec. With known resources, which now stand at between 36 and 40 Mt of fibers, this production capability seems assured for the next few decades. In spite of all known reserves of chrysotile asbestos, which now stand at between 36 and 40 Mt of fiber in this region alone, mining companies and government agencies are still showing a good deal of interest in exploring for new sources throughout the world. GEOLOGICAL SETTING The asbestos deposits at Baie Verte in eastern Newfoundland, Thetford Mines, Black Lake, Asbestos in southern Quebec, and Belvidere Mountain in Vermont, all occur in partly serpentinized ultramafic rocks that are part of the Lower Paleozoic ophiolite complexes of the northern Appalachians [Cady, Albee, Chidester, 1963, Chidester, Albee, Cady, 1978, Lamarche, 1972,1973, Laurent, 1973,1975, Williams, Hibbard, Bursnall, 1977, Norman and Strong, 1975). The deposits to the northeast of Thetford Mines, on the other hand, are found in a more highly serpentinized ultramafic body known as the Pennington dike, whose spatial, genetic, and chronological links with the ophiolite masses proper have not as yet been adequately resolved. The Appalachian ophiolites are part of an ultramafic belt (or belts), that extends from northwestern Newfoundland, through Quebec and Vermont. Fig. 1, and southwestward as far as the
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