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Formation of orogenic gold deposits by progressive movement of a fault-fracture mesh through the upper crustal brittle-ductile transition zone

October 17, 2022

Orogenic gold deposits are comprised of complex quartz vein arrays that form as a result of fluid flow along transcrustal fault zones in active orogenic belts. Mineral precipitation in these deposits occurs under variable pressure conditions, but a mechanism explaining how the pressure regimes evolve through time has not previously been proposed. Here we show that extensional quartz veins at the Garrcon deposit in the Abitibi greenstone belt of Canada preserve petrographic characteristics suggesting that the three recognized paragenetic stages formed within different pressure regimes. The first stage involved the growth of interlocking quartz grains competing for space in fractures held open by hydrothermal fluids at supralithostatic pressures. Subsequent fluid flow at fluctuating pressure conditions caused recrystallization of the vein quartz and the precipitation of sulfide minerals through wall-rock sulfidation, with some of the sulfide minerals containing microscopic gold. These pressure fluctuations between supralithostatic to near-hydrostatic conditions resulted in the post-entrapment modification of the fluid inclusion inventory of the quartz. Late fluid flow occurred at near-hydrostatic conditions and resulted in the formation of fluid inclusions that have not been affected by post-entrapment modification as pressure conditions never returned to supralithostatic conditions. This late fluid flow is interpreted to have formed the texturally late, coarse native gold that occurs along quartz grain boundaries and in open spaces. The systematic evolution of the pressure regimes in orogenic gold deposits such as Garrcon can be explained by relative movement of fault-fracture meshes across the base of the upper crustal brittle-ductile transition zone. We conclude that early vein quartz in orogenic deposits is precipitated at near-lithostatic conditions whereas the paragenetically late gold is introduced at distinctly lower pressure.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Formation of orogenic gold deposits by progressive movement of a fault-fracture mesh through the upper crustal brittle-ductile transition zone
DOI 10.1038/s41598-022-22393-9
Authors Miguel Tavares Nassif, Thomas Monecke, T. James Reynolds, Yvette D. Kuiper, Richard J. Goldfarb, Sandra Piazolo, Heather A. Lowers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70237663
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center; Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center