The crustal continuum model for late-Archaean lode-gold deposits of the Yilgarn Block, Western Australia
- Cite this article as:
- Groves, D.I. Mineral. Deposita (1993) 28: 366. doi:10.1007/BF02431596
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Most Archaean gold ores belong to a coherent genetic group of structurally controlled lode-deposits that are characteristically enriched in Au with variable enrichments in Ag, As, W, Sb, Bi, Te, B and Pb, but rarely Cu or Zn, and are surrounded by wallrock alteration haloes enriched in K, LILE and CO2, with variable Na and/or Ca addition. Evidence from the Yilgarn Block of Western Australia, combined with similar evidence from Canada and elsewhere, indicates that such deposits represent a crustal continuum that formed under a variety of crustal régimes over at least a 15 km crustal profile at PT conditions ranging from 180°C at <1 kb to 700°C at 5 kb. Individual deposits, separated by tens to hundreds of kilometres, collectively show transitional variations in structural style of mineralisation, vein textures, and mineralogy of wallrock alteration that relate to the PT conditions of their formation at varying crustal depths. Specific transitions within the total spectrum may be shown also by deposits within gold camps, although nowhere is the entire continuum of deposits recorded from a single gold camp or even greenstone belt.
Recognition of the crustal continuum of deposits implicates the existence of giant late-Archaean hydrothermal systems with a deep source for the primary ore fluid. A number of deep fluid and solute reservoirs are possible, including the basal segments of greenstone belts, deep-level intrusive granitoids, mid-to lower-crustal granitoidgneisses, mantle lithosphere, or even subducted oceanic lithosphere, given the probable convergent-margin setting of the host greenstone terranes. Individual stable and radiogenic isotope ratios of fluid and solute components implicate fluid evolution from, or equilibrium with, a number of these reservoirs, stressing the potential complexity of pathways for fluid advection to depositional sites. Lead and strontium isotope ratios of ore-associated minerals provide the most persuasive evidence for fluid advection through deep-level intrusive granitoids or granitoid-gneiss crust, whereas preliminary oxygen isotope data show that mixing of deeply sourced fluid and surface waters only occurred at the highest crustal levels recorded by the lode gold deposits.