Fahlore as an indicator of mineralization temperature and gold fineness

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 1081, 2004

R.O. Sack and F.W. Brackebusch

A method for determining the fineness of Au in electrum from the composition of fahlore coexisting with pyrite and chalcopyrite is presented. This method is based on previously published experimental brackets and activity-composition models for electrum and fahlore, and it is potentially useful for defining temperatures of hydrothermal mineralization and retrograde evolution of precious metals deposits. The authors demonstrate that it successfully predicts compositions of electrum reported for this assemblage in the literature and illustrate its application for three gold-quartz vein deposits from the Coeur d’Alene mining district, Idaho, that are prospects of the New Jersey Mining Company, the Coleman vein, High-Grade prospect, and Silver Strand mine. Temperatures calculated from average electrum compositions estimated from gravity concentrates (molar Au/(Au+Ag) = 0.76-0.39) and from microprobe analyses of the fahlores (molar Ag/(Ag+Cu) = 0.039 ± 0.004, Zn/(Zn+Fe) = 0.57 ± 0.03, As/(As+Sb) = 0.23 ± 0.02) from the Coleman vein indicate that the electrums underwent retrograde re-equilibration to temperatures between about 80°C and 240°C, roughly 80°C below the temperature of hydrothermal mineralization and 10°C to 40°C above the temperature inferred for retrograde equilibration of Fe and Zn between sphalerite and fahlore. Fahlores from the High-Grade prospect [molar Ag/(Ag+Cu) = 0.009 ± 0.004, Zn/(Zn+Fe) = 0.55 ± 0.11, and As/(As+Sb) = 0.04 ± 0.03] and Silver Strand mineralized zone [molar Ag/(Ag+Cu) = 0.10 ± 0.04, Zn/(Zn+Fe) = 0.63 ± 0.02, and As/(As+Sb) = 0.06 ± 0.02] exhibit strong core to rim depletions in Ag due to retrograde operation of the reaction 1/10Cu10Fe2Sb4S13 + Ag + FeS2 = Cu-fahlore electrum pyrite CuFeS2 + 1/10Ag10Fe2Sb4S13 chalcopyrite Ag-fahlore which proceeds to the left with decreasing temperature. Electrum inclusions in arsenopyrite from the High-Grade prospect [molar Au/(Au+Ag) = 0.90 ± 0.02] define a minimum bound on the temperature of hydrothermal mineralization of 273°C, and the temperature-electrum composition curve constructed for the most Ag-rich fahlore in the Silver Strand mine indicates that the fineness of its electrum is significantly less than in the other deposits.