Occurrences of alunite, pyrophyllite, and clays in the Cerro La Tiza area, Puerto Rico

Open-File Report 59-54
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A deposit of hydrothermally altered rocks in the Cerro La Tiza area located between the towns of Comerio and Aguas Buenas, approximately 25 kilometers southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was mapped and studied to determine the principal minerals, their extent distribution and origin, and the possibility of their economic utilization, especially in Puerto Rico. The Cerro la Tiza area is about 71/2 kilometers long, has an average width of about 11/2 kilometers and embraces a total area of approximately 15 square kilometers. The principal mineralized zone, a dike-like mass of light-colored rocks surrounded by dark-colored volcanic country rocks, occupies the crest and upper slopes of east-trending Cerro La Tiza ridge and is believed to be of Late Cretaceous or Eocene age. This zone is approximately 5,300 meters long, 430 meters wide and has an area of approximately 225 hectares (556 acres). The rocks of the mineralized zone are of mixed character and consist mainly of massive quartzose rocks and banded quartz-alunite rocks closely associated with foliated pyrophyllitic, sericitic and clayey rocks. The principal minerals in probably order of abundance are quartz, alunite, pyrophyllite, kaolin group clays (kaolinite and halloysite) and sericite. Minerals of minor abundance are native sulfure, diaspore, svanbergite (?), sunyite (?), hematite, goethite, pyrite, rutile (?) and very small quantities of unidentified minerals. The mineralized zone has broken down to deposits of earth-rock debris of Quaternary age that cover much of the slopes and flanks of Cerro La Tiza. This debris consists generally of fragments and boulders with a very large size range embedded in a clayey matrix. The distribution of the earth-rock debris with respect to the present topography and drainage suggests that it may have undergone at least two cycles of erosion. Underlying the earth-rock debris and completely enclosing the mineralized zone are country rocks of probably Late Cretaceous age. These consist principally of low flows and volcanic and flow breccias but contain thin interbedded siltstones and sandstones. The lavas are generally predominant at the western end of the area and the breccias at the eastern end. The mineralized zone and the country rocks are sheared along two predominant directions that are approximately N 70 degrees E and N 70 degrees W. The ridge of Cerro La Tiza appears to be a broad shear zone through which hydrothermal emanations gained access to the country rocks. The emanations are believed to have originated from intrusive rocks that probably underlie the area. The surrounding area contains both large and small exposed intrusive bodies. The largest one is the San Lorenzo batholith of Late Cretaceous or Eocene age whose exposed northwest edge is approximately 19 kilometers southeast of the eastern end of the Cerro La Tiza area. Other zones of hydrothermally altered rocks were discovered along a mineralized belt extending eastward from Cerro La Tiza through the Rio Gurabo Valley nearly to the Vieques Passage bordering the east coast of Puerto Rico. Other zones were discovered north and south of this belt and still others were found circumventing the San Lorenzo batholith. The most abundant minerals of the mineralized zone can be exploited for economic utilization in Puerto Rico. Alunite can be utilized in the manufacture of aluminum sulfate for water purification. It can also be used in the manufacture of alumina refractory materials. Pyrophyllite can be used as a carrier for insecticides and fungicides. It can also be utilized for the manufacture of ceramic products, as a filler in the soap industry and as a carrier for paint pigments. Kaolinite can be used in the ceramic industry and in the manufacture of glass as a substitute for feldspar. Halloysite might be utilized as a catalyst support in the cracking of petroleum. Tonnages of reserve ore on Cerro La Tiza are calculated to be 1,590,000 inferred short tons (1,440,000,000 inferred metric tons) of mixed minerals. These tonnages are based on the assumption that the depth of the mineralized zone is one-half of the exposed width. The deposit is well situated for open pit mining, but because of the existing cover of earth-rock debris, soil foliage, exploration should proceed exploitation for better determination of the most promising areas containing the best concentrations of the minerals sought.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Occurrences of alunite, pyrophyllite, and clays in the Cerro La Tiza area, Puerto Rico
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 59-54
DOI 10.3133/ofr5954
Year Published 1959
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: 82 p.; 6 Plates: 33.36 × 13.74 inches or smaller
Country Puerto Rico
Other Geospatial Cerro La Tiza
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