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Critical elements in Carlin, epithermal, and orogenic gold deposits

November 24, 2016

Carlin, epithermal, and orogenic gold deposits, today mined almost exclusively for their gold content, have similar suites of anomalous trace elements that reflect similar low-salinity ore fluids and thermal conditions of metal transport and deposition. Many of these trace elements are commonly referred to as critical or near-critical elements or metals and have been locally recovered, although typically in small amounts, by historic mining activities. These elements include As, Bi, Hg, In, Sb, Se, Te, Tl, and W. Most of these elements are now solely recovered as by-products from the milling of large-tonnage, base metal-rich ore deposits, such as porphyry and volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits.

A combination of dominance of the world market by a single country for a single commodity and a growing demand for many of the critical to near-critical elements could lead to future recovery of such elements from select epithermal, orogenic, or Carlin-type gold deposits. Antimony continues to be recovered from some orogenic gold deposits and tellurium could potentially be a primary commodity from some such deposits. Tellurium and indium in sphalerite-rich ores have been recovered in the past and could be future commodities recovered from epithermal ores. Carlin-type gold deposits in Nevada are enriched in and may be a future source for As, Hg, Sb, and/or Tl. Some of the Devonian carbonaceous host rocks in the Carlin districts are sufficiently enriched in many trace elements, including Hg, Se, and V, such that they also could become resources. Thallium may be locally enriched to economic levels in Carlin-type deposits and it has been produced from Carlin-like deposits elsewhere in the world (e.g., Alsar, southern Macedonia; Lanmuchang, Guizhou province, China). Mercury continues to be recovered from shallow-level epithermal deposits, as well as a by-product of many Carlin-type deposits where refractory ore is roasted to oxidize carbon and pyrite, and mercury is then captured in air pollution control devices.

Publication Year 2016
Title Critical elements in Carlin, epithermal, and orogenic gold deposits
Authors Richard J. Goldfarb, Albert H. Hofstra, Stuart F. Simmons
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70134475
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center