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Miami Geological Society Publications
MGS-Nagle 1979

Hispaniola: Tectonic Focal Point of the Northern Caribbean ~ Three Geologic Studies in the Dominican Republic


Frederick Nagle, N. Currie Palmer, and Gustave A. Antonini


During the summer of 1980, the 9th Caribbean Geologic Conference plans to meet on the island of Hispaniola in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This event will bring to that island, for the first time in history, a large number of geologists, geographers, mining engineers, and other professional scientists from many countries, many of whom will discover unsolved geologic problems of interest in a country of great economic promise.

Hispaniola is the last Caribbean island having "geologic frontiers," i.e., great expanses of terrain unknown geologically. During the past five years, it has become evident to Caribbean geologists that this island will become a focal point for geologic work in the Caribbean (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, 1975; Burke and Fox, 1977; Weaver, 1977). As noted in Weaver (1977, p. 137), "Hispaniola is the hub, or "structural knot," where the Cayman Trench, the Nicaraguan Rise, the Cayman Ridge, the Puerto Rico Trench, the eastern Greater Antilles, the Beata Ridge and the Bahamas-Cuba intersection zone meet.... Thus this region probably holds the key to a proper tectonic interpretation of the northern map showing physiographic features of the Caribbeanmargin of the Caribbean plate" (Fig. A).

During the past 20 years, Hispaniola has begun production from several important ore deposits; bauxite is being mined by Reynolds Haitian Mines in Haiti, and by Alcoa in the Dominican Republic. By virtue of the operations of Falconbridge Dominicana, the Dominican Republic is now the fourth ranking producer of nickel among non-communist nations, and the country currently has the largest open-pit gold mine in the world with a projected annual production of 350,000 oz of gold (Sisselman, 1977). Some of the world's finest amber deposits are mined in northern Dominican Republic (Zahl, 1977). Potential mineral development for the island is not fully known, but exploration has discovered prospects for gold, silver, titaniferous sands, manganese, molybdenum and copper. For a review of the mineral situation, the reader is referred to Guild and Cox (1977), Llinas (1977), Sisselman (1977), and Kesler (1978). Although there is no current oil production on the island, several companies were actively exploring during 1977-1978 (Amato, 1978). Mineral and petroleum interest in the island is increasing, and the mineral developments since 1958 have already helped relieve strains on what was primarily a sugar economy.

With these developments in mind, we have gathered three geologic studies in this volume, done in the Dominican Republic and completed prior to the rise and general acceptance of the plate tectonics and sea-floor spreading concepts. The three papers are condensations of unpublished Ph.D. theses; two from Hess' Princeton group (Palmer, 1963; Nagle, 1966) are geologic in content, and a third (Antonini, 1968) emphasizes physical geography but is important to geologists in that it contains geologic information which overlaps with and builds upon Palmer's study. All three writers were in agreement that their manuscripts should be left in the context of the time during which they were written, so that no attempt has been made to adapt them to fit popular tectonic models or to incorporate the later studies discussed below.

(The entire report is available below.)

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