Natural Resources Research

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 257–276 | Cite as

Evaluation of Weights of Evidence to Predict Epithermal-Gold Deposits in the Great Basin of the Western United States

  • Gary L. RainesEmail author


The weights-of-evidence method provides a simple approach to the integration of diverse geologic information. The application addressed is to construct a model that predicts the locations of epithermal-gold mineral deposits in the Great Basin of the western United States. Weights of evidence is a data-driven method requiring known deposits and occurrences that are used as training sites in the evaluated area. Four hundred and fifteen known hot spring gold–silver, Comstock vein, hot spring mercury, epithermal manganese, and volcanogenic uranium deposits and occurrences in Nevada were used to define an area of 327.4 km2 as training sites to develop the model. The model consists of nine weighted-map patterns that are combined to produce a favorability map predicting the distribution of epithermal-gold deposits. Using a measure of the association of training sites with predictor features (or patterns), the patterns can be ranked from best to worst predictors. Based on proximity analysis, the strongest predictor is the area within 8 km of volcanic rocks younger than 43 Ma. Being close to volcanic rocks is not highly weighted, but being far from volcanic rocks causes a strong negative weight. These weights suggest that proximity to volcanic rocks define where deposits do not occur. The second best pattern is the area within 1 km of hydrothermally altered areas. The next best pattern is the area within 1 km of known placer-gold sites. The proximity analysis for gold placers weights this pattern as useful when close to known placer sites, but unimportant where placers do not exist. The remaining patterns are significantly weaker predictors. In order of decreasing correlation, they are: proximity to volcanic vents, proximity to east-west to northwest faults, elevated airborne radiometric uranium, proximity to northwest to west and north-northwest linear features, elevated aeromagnetics, and anomalous geochemistry. This ordering of the patterns is a function of the quality, applicability, and use of the data. The nine-pattern favorability map can be evaluated by comparison with the USGS National Assessment for hot spring gold–silver deposits. The Spearman's ranked correlation coefficient between the favorability and the National Assessment permissive tracts is 0.5. Tabulations of the areas of agreement and disagreement between the two maps show 74% agreement for the Great Basin. The posterior probabilities for 51 significant deposits in the Great Basin, both used and not used in the model, show the following: 26 classified as favorable; 25 classified as permissive; and 1, Florida Canyon, classified as nonpermissive.The Florida Canyon deposit has a low favorability because there are no volcanic rocks near the deposit on the Nevada geologic map used. The largest areas of disagreement are caused by the USGS National Assessment team concluding that volcanic rocks older than 27 Ma in Nevada are not permissive, which was not assumed in this model. The weights-of-evidence model is evaluated as reasonable and delineates permissive areas for epithermal deposits comparable to expert's delineation. The weights-of-evidence model has the additional characteristics that it is well defined, reproducible, objective, and provides a quantitative measure of confidence.

Geographic information system (GIS) weights of evidence mineral assessment epithermal-gold deposits 


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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geology 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological SurveyReno

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