Archean Lode Gold and Base Metal Deposits: Evidence for Metal Separation into Independent Hydrothermal Systems

Special Volume, Vol. SV 24, No. 1982, 1982

Archean lode gold deposits of both vein and chemical sedimentary types typically have major enrichments of certain rare elements, including Au, Ag, As, Sb, B, W, Se, Te and Bi, coupled with low or negative enrichments of the more abundant and mobile base metals, Cu, Pb and Zn. On the other hand, in massive base metal sulphide deposits Au, Ag, Cu, Zn and in some instances Pb are all enriched by a factor of 200 to 2000 compared to background and there is no large separation of gold relative to the base metals. The fluids from which gold was precipitated in veins were at temperatures of 320 to 480°C, at lithostatic pressure, had significant C02, and Na "" K; whereas the fluids which generated base metal deposits were at 250-300°C, at hydrostatic pressure, had C02 > K. Many lode gold deposits are characterized by K, C02 and Si additions to their enveloping rocks, whereas base metal deposits typically have a fixation of Fe, Mg, Si and S in footwall rocks. Lode gold deposits may also have a relatively large halo of low-temperature oxidative, sadie spilitization in enclosing volcanic rocks, where seawater has later streamed into cooling stocks or flows that have initially acted to focus gold mineralizing fluids along thermal contraction fractures. The submarine environment is one hydrologically appropriate for the mixing of two initially independent hydrothermal systems, and the blending of their separate characteristics. Hence, lode gold and base metal massive sulphide deposits appear to be products of two distinctly different crustal and hydrological regimes. The former involves a high-temperature, high-pressure discharge of fluids which probably were generated during dehydration accompanying burial and progressive accumulation of volcanic-sedimentary sequences, with an additional influence of marine water in the near-sea-floor environment. The latter represents thermally driven convection of ocean water at lower temperatures and under hydrostatic conditions. Auriferous fluid systems with only minor base metal content could plausibly be generated during dehydration accompanying burial and metamorphism, when the water-to-rock ratio is low and halogen availability is limited by crustal abundance (- 60 ppm Cl). These two factors may constrain the uptake of the abundant base metals into fluids, but the solubility of rare elements is not constrained by limited fluid; and preferential uptake of Au along with other rare elements may be promoted if such elements compete more successfully for the limited halogens than the base metals, and/or have an alternative complexing agent such as CO or C02/3.
Keywords: Gold, gold mining, Archean Lode Gold, base metal deposits, Metal separation, Hydrothermal systems, oxydation