The Lead-Zinc Deposits of Pine Point

CIM Bulletin, 1966

Neil Campbell Chief Geologist, Cominco American Inc., Spokane, Wash.

The gently-dipping Devonian dolomite beds south of Great Slave lake in northern Canada are nearly everywhere concealed by a cover of glacial drift and muskeg. Nevertheless, in 1898 or earlier, four small outcropping areas of dolomite, richly mineralized with lead and zinc sulphides, were discovered. Exploration work performed here up to the end of 1930, included intensive trenching and drilling of the showings, together with mapping and wide-spaced drilling in the surrounding region. This work proved that the discoveries are isolated pockets of ITJineralization much too small to be commercially valuable by themselves. No evidence of orebodies elsewhere was reported. Meanwhile, mapping by the G.S.C. in the Shield far to the east disclosed major Precambrian faults, some of which can be projected southwesterly (under a cover of Paleozoic sediments) to the vicinity of Pine Point. During the period from 1940 to 1947, consideration was given, by The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company Ltd., to evidence of a theoretical possibility that, although apparently dormant in Paleozoic times, these faults may have provided a structural control and a source of ore-bearing solutions in some post-Devonian period. From this, it was postulated that the breaks might have created, in the overlying dolomite, a linear array of orebodies concealed by overburden but lying in a belt of considerable length and in a position predictable within practical limits. A program of drilling designed to test and exploit this specific concept was conducted from 1948 to 1955. The drilling within the new, theoretically-defined search area resulted in the discovery of many lead-zinc orebodies, none of which was exposed at the surface. Some of these are large and (as indicated by 1965 production records) very rich. They are situated 1 to several miles distant from, and apparently not connected to, the earlierknown surface discoveries. The drilling also disclosed that the ore, which consists of disseminated sphalerite and galena replacements together with colloform sphalerite and coarse galena cavity fillings, occurs mainly at certain stratigraphic horizons within a large, coarsely-recrystallized dolomite barrier reef. Considerable fracturing and folding was found. It has been suggested that reef development was influenced by post-Precambrian tectonic movements associated with the old faults in the basement complex. The ore may have been deposited by solutions moving from distant sources to favourable structural and chemical environments in or related to the reef. In more recent exploration performed in the course of preparing for mining production, the rate of ore discovery within the same general geological context has been greatly accelerated by the use of new geophysical techniques and drilling equipment. Reserves of 21.5 million tons, averaging 4 per cent lead and 7.2 per cent zinc, were reported in 1965, and production from open pits at the rate of approximately 248,000 tons of concentrates per year is in progress
Keywords: Deposits, dolomite, dolomite, Middle Devonian, Pine Point, Precambrian, sphalerite, Fault, Faults, Lead, Ore, Ores, Reefs