Shrinkage Stoping at the Idarado Mine

Hustrulid, William
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The Idarado mine lies high in the San Juan Moun¬tains on the divide between the Uncompahgre and San Miguel Rivers and consists of a consolidation of a number of old and prominent mining properties through which course some famous and very produc¬tive veins. Among the better known are the Smuggler, Tomboy, Montana-Argentine, Black Bear, Liberty Bell, Virginius, Flat, Barstow, and Japan, as well as many others. Most of these veins have been extensively mined over the past century and in the last three decades the Montana-Argentine and Black Bear veins have been the backbone of the Idarado mine; therefore, the descrip¬tion of the veins is limited to them. Access to the mine is through either the Treasury tunnel, whose portal is below Red Mountain Pass on US Highway 550 at an elevation of 3244 m (10,643 ft), or the Mill Level tunnel entrance 3.2 km (2 miles) east of Telluride, CO, at an elevation of 2761 m (9060 ft). The Treasury tunnel intersects the Black Bear vein 2643 m (8670 ft) from the portal and the Mill Level tunnel intersects the Argentine vein 2179 m (7150 ft) from the portal. Mining is by shrinkage stoping from slusher sublevels. The size of the scope blocks varies somewhat, but the standard size is 67 to 76 m (220 to 250 ft) long and 61 to 76 m (200 to 250 ft) high. The mine ranks either first or second in Colorado in yearly production of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc. It is 9.6 km (6 miles) from the Red Mountain plant to the Pandora plant, via interconnecting drifts and raises. There are engineering offices at both plants as a matter of convenience. The Red Mountain plant in¬cludes the company general offices, warehouse, carpen¬ter and machine shops, and mine change room. The Pandora plant consists of the mill and assay office, ma¬chine shops, and mine change room. The flotation mill has a capacity of 1632 t/d (1800 stpd), making a bul¬lion product and separate concentrates of lead, copper, and zinc. HISTORY OF THE MINE The Montana-Argentine vein was first extensively worked by the Tomboy Gold Mines Co., Ltd., a British concern. This company mined the stoped areas above the Ophir level between 1910 and the late 1920s and most of the stoped areas above the 2100 level between 1900 and the late 1920s. Gold was the principal ore metal mined. The area between the Revenue and Ophir levels was mined chiefly by the Revenue Mines Co. between 1900 and 1910. The ore was worked from the Revenue tun¬nel, which portals in Canyon Creek. Gold and silver were the chief metals recovered. The stopes between the 1700 and Revenue levels, as well as some higher stopes, were mined by Telluride Mines Inc. during the 1940s. The Mill Level tunnel was driven by that company from 1945 to 1948. Lead and zinc then became economically more important than the precious metals. In 1953, Idarado purchased Telluride Mines, which merged with the parent company in 1956. The Black Bear vein was first extensively worked by the Black Bear Mining Co. in the 1900s and by the Colorado Superior Mining Co. from about 1914 until snowslides at the mine camp [altitude 3750 m (12,300 ft)] terminated the company's operations in 1924. Leasers operated at intervals until 1934. The Treasury tunnel, formerly the Hammond tunnel, had been started before 1900 and reached the 1646-m (5400-ft) mark early in the 1900s, at which time activity lagged until the late 1930s. In the early 1940s, Idarado extended the Treasury tunnel from its heading at 1646 m (5400 ft) to the Black Bear vein and established a raise connec¬tion with the 600 level, the lowest level in the old mine. Since completion of initial work in the mid-1940s, systematic development of the mine, both in the driv¬ing of new headings and the utilization of older open¬ings, has resulted in the present extensive network of workings. GEOLOGY Introduction The oldest rocks of the area are the Precambrian metamorphic rocks, the Uncompahgre formation which are massive quartzites, some phyllites and slates, and dolomitic or limestone beds. West-dipping Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata lie on the Uncompahgre formation. These units are separated by a major angular uncomformity from overlying, essentially horizontal, Tertiary formations that include the basal Telluride conglomerate and several thousand feet of overlying volcanic rock. Intrusive rocks, mostly Tertiary in age, are common in the area, and are in the form of dikes, stocks, and sills. Dikes are very closely associated with some of the ore veins (Mayer). Description of Veins The Black Bear and Argentine veins range from 0.6 to 7.6 m (2 to 25 ft) in width, but in most places are 1.5 to 2 m (5 to 7 ft) wide. They vary in character from a well-defined tabular structure between sharp "frozen" walls, or gouge seams, to an irregular zone of quartz and quartz-sulfide stringers. Many gouge seams within the veins make the veins blocky and loose. Common gangue minerals in the veins include quartz, pyrite, rhodonite, chlorite, sericite, clay minerals, epidote, calcite, adularia, rhodocrosite, fluorite, and specularite. Quartz constitutes 60 to 70% of the veins and varies widely in character, ranging in color from clear through white, gray, and green, to amethyst. Chlorite, sericite, the clay minerals, and fine-grained quartz are common alteration products of the vein walls and of wall rock fragments in the veins. Epidote is an altera¬tion of the dike or, less commonly, of tuff-breccia. Calcite, adularia, fluorite, and rhodocrosite, which are wide¬
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