, Volume 30, Issue 3-4, pp 199-210

Boiling, colloid nucleation and aggregation, and the genesis of bonanza Au-Ag ores of the sleeper deposit, Nevada

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Abstract

A deep “parent” composition for bonanza oreforming fluids at the Sleeper deposit was calculated by the computer program SOLVEQ using fluid-inclusion microthermometric and gas data, and by assuming equilibrium with the following minerals present in vein samples below the bonanza zones: gold, chalcedony, adularia, pyrite, chalcopyrite, and acanthite. The calculated dissolved gold content of 295 ppb is approximately 2 orders of magnitude higher than that assumed for typical geothermal systems. Thus, a gold-enriched fluid appears to have been a principal factor in the genesis of bonanza Au-Ag ores at the Sleeper deposit. Geochemical modelling of possible ore-forming processes using the computer program CHILLER, with the reconstructed ore-forming solution as a starting composition, indicates that boiling most closely reproduces observed minerals and their relative abundances in bonanza ores. The constraint imposed by the association of amorphous silica with gold precludes all of the mixing scenarios modelled, such as mixing with cold and steam-heated groundwaters (acid-sulfate, CO2-rich). Modelling indicates that boiling of a gold-rich deep solution leads to rapid gold precipitation, and that the amount of gold precipitated initially is large relative to other minerals. These factors apparently led to nucleation of colloidal gold particles instead of in-situ gold deposition or coprecipitation with other phases. Gold colloids apparently were entrained in the upward-flowing hydrothermal solutions and grew as they travelled. Upon reaching a critical size (10–100 nm?), they were deposited due to orthokinetic aggregation at an elevation and temperature at which amorphous silica was nucleating and aggregating.