Geochemical Assessment of Mineral Resource Potential in a Hg-Sb-Pb-Zn Mining Area: The Almadén and Guadalmez Synclines (South-Central Spain)

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The geochemical data from surface soils are often neglected or questioned when prospecting for ore deposits within active mining districts due to the “background noise” produced by anthropogenic pollution derived from mining activity. Large datasets on a national and international scale offer interesting possibilities to discover prospective zones. In the present work, data from the Geochemical Atlas of Castilla–La Mancha were treated in an area with an intense history of mining Hg, Pb, Zn, and Sb: the Almadén and Guadalmez synclines and the Alcudia Valley. The sampling grid was densified to adapt it to the scale of the main geological formations, and a cluster analysis was carried out to establish the relationships between the variables and a factor analysis to distinguish between geogenic and metallogenic factors. The results showed very high concentrations of some elements of prospective interest in local background areas: Hg (51 mg kg−1), Pb (1190 mg kg−1), and Sb (45 mg kg−1), with high variation coefficients. Cluster analysis unveiled a relationship between most of the local ore-forming metals (As, Sb, Hg, Pb, and Ag) with a clear correlation between Hg and organic matter, suggesting a notable contribution of Hg in soil. The factor analysis highlighted five factors, three geogenic and two ore-forming elements. Despite Hg being the main candidate to form a separate factor, its aerial deposition and a large number of outliers in the Almadén syncline contributed to integrating the element into a geogenic factor. Instead, factors F4 (Pb and Zn) and F5 (As and Sb) delimited the prospective areas in both synclines far from the known and the exploited mines. Some of these areas coincided with discovered mineralized zones, specifically in the area SE of a derelict Sb mine, confirming the usefulness of these datasets and statistical tools in areas with recent mining activity.