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A case of Te-rich low-sulfidation epithermal Au-Ag deposits in a calc-alkaline magmatic arc, NE China

October 18, 2022

Tellurium-bearing low-sulfidation epithermal Au-Ag deposits are significant producers of gold, silver, and potentially strategic elements if mineral processing methods are optimized for recovery. Although these deposits are generally related to alkaline magmatism, our study documents an unusual occurrence of Te-rich low-sulfidation epithermal systems in the North Heilongjiang Belt in northeast China that is spatially and temporally associated with calc-alkaline magmatism and tectonic extension in a continental arc‐setting.

In the North Heilongjiang Belt, Te-bearing Au-Ag deposits are usually sited in dilatant zones, mostly along extensional NW structures or at their intersections with deep‐seated NE-striking faults such as the Nenjiang-Heihe and Jiayin-Mudanjiang lineaments. Of these deposits, Sandaowanzi is well‐known for its bonanza gold grades. These faults localized andesitic to rhyolitic volcano-plutonic centers that evolved from mantle‐derived mafic melts to intermediate compositions due to differentiation and crustal assimilation as documented by their mineralogy and Sr, Nd, and Pb isotope compositions. During assimilation of country rocks, fluids containing 3He and other volatiles derived from mantle magmas displaced or mixed with external groundwater containing radiogenic 4He derived from country rocks. In this belt, the bulk metal content of Au, Ag and Te was probably introduced by deep mantle‐derived mafic‐intermediate calc‐alkaline intrusions. However, our study does not exclude input of metals leached from underlying metasedimentary rocks and older Te‐bearing Au mineralization. The noble gas, hydrogen, oxygen and lead isotope compositions of fluid inclusions and ore minerals suggest that the deposits formed by mixing between magmatic fluids and convecting meteoric ground waters containing lead leached from surrounding country rocks. At deeper levels, isotopic evidence suggests that Au-Ag-Te (Bi) precipitated with pyrite, quartz, sericite, and carbonate minerals due to mixing with Te-rich fluids. At shallower levels, Au and Ag precipitated contemporaneously with base‐metal sulfides, hydrothermal quartz and sericite during episodic boiling as evidenced by silica morphology and mineral textures.

The relatively uniform spacing of epithermal systems along NW- and NE-trending structures in the North Heilongjiang Belt was used to identify unexplored spaces within this mineral belt that are prospective for concealed low-sulfidation epithermal gold deposits. Although some of the Au-Ag deposits in this belt are enriched in Te, there is a lack of coeval alkaline igneous rocks that are commonly associated with Te-bearing gold deposits elsewhere in the world (e.g., Cripple Creek, Emperor, and Lihir Island).

Publication Year 2022
Title A case of Te-rich low-sulfidation epithermal Au-Ag deposits in a calc-alkaline magmatic arc, NE China
DOI 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2022.105158
Authors Shen Gao, Albert H. Hofstra, K. Qin, H. Xue
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ore Geology Reviews
Index ID 70238594
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center