, Volume 40, Issue 6-7, pp 639-663

Textures, paragenesis and wall-rock alteration of lode-gold deposits in the Charters Towers district, north Queensland: implications for the conditions of ore formation

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Abstract

Ore deposits of the Charters Towers Goldfield (CTGF) are mainly hosted by fault-fill veins. Extensional (∼8% of all veins) and stockwork-like (∼3%) veins are less common and of little economic significance. Crosscutting relationships and published structural and geochronological data indicate a Late Silurian to Early Devonian timing of gold mineralization, coincident with regional shortening (D4) and I-type magmatism. Paragenetic relationships, which are uniform in veins everywhere within the CTGF, suggest that vein formation commenced with the deposition of large volumes of buck quartz (stage I), followed by buck and comb quartz, and significant pyrite and arsenopyrite precipitation (stage II). Gold was introduced during stage III, after earlier sphalerite and coincident with galena and chalcopyrite. Narrow, discontinuous calcite veins of stage IV mark the waning of gold-related hydrothermal activity or a later unrelated episode. Ore zones within the veins are everywhere composed of comb and/or gray quartz, calcite and/or ankerite and bands or clusters of fractured pyrite that are spatially associated with galena, sphalerite or chalcopyrite. Low-grade or barren vein sections, on the other hand, are mainly composed of milky buck quartz with little evidence for modification, overprinting or interaction with later fluids. Gold-related hydrothermal wall-rock alteration is symmetrically zoned, displaying proximal sericite–ankerite and distal epidote–chlorite–hematite assemblages that may be taken to imply wall-rock interaction with near neutral fluids (pH 5–6). Isocon plots assuming immobile Al, P, Ti, Y and Zr consistently indicate As, K, Pb, S and Zn enrichment and Na, Si and Sr depletion in altered wall-rock specimens relative to the least altered rocks. Alteration assemblages, quartz textures, fault rocks and published fluid inclusion and stable isotope data imply that the veins were formed under conditions of episodic fluid overpressuring (∼0.9–3.8 kbar), at a depth of ∼7 km and a temperature of ∼310°C. The published fluid inclusion data also imply that gold precipitation may have been brought about by fluid mixing. However, physi- and chemisorption of gold complexes onto sulfide surfaces may have been important depositional processes and controls on gold enrichment at the millimeter to centimeter scale, given that most gold particles are attached to the surfaces of pyrite crystals of stage II or to etch-pits and fracture surfaces within the earlier pyrite.

Editorial handling: C. Brauhart