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A metamorphic mineral source for tungsten in the turbidite-hosted orogenic gold deposits of the Otago Schist, New Zealand


The orogenic gold deposits of the Otago Schist, New Zealand, are enriched in a variety of trace elements including Au, As, Ag, Hg, W and Sb. We combine laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) traverses and images to show that detrital rutile is the most important host mineral for W in the subgreenschist facies rocks. Furthermore, the prograde metamorphic recrystallisation of detrital rutile to titanite releases significant amounts of W (potentially 0.41 g/tonne of rock). Scheelite development closely follows the progression of this W-liberating reaction. Scheelite micrograins form early within the fabric of the rock evolving to locally and regionally sourced scheelite-bearing veins. Scheelite from syn-metamorphic veins at Fiddlers Flat and Lake Hāwea shows distinct differences in composition compared with scheelite from late-metamorphic veins at the Macraes Mine, the latter of which is enriched in REEs, Y and Sr. We suggest that the scheelite at Macraes became enriched due to the liberation of these elements during alteration of the Ca-silicate minerals epidote and titanite by the ore-forming fluid. These results are supportive of recent models for orogenic gold mineralisation in the Otago Schist, whereby prograde metamorphic recrystallisation of diagenetic or detrital metal-rich mineral phases (pyrite to pyrrhotite: Au, As, Ag, Hg and Sb; rutile to titanite: W) releases significant amounts of metals into the concurrently developing metamorphic fluids that can be subsequently focussed into regional structures and form significant tungsten-bearing orogenic gold deposits.

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Funding for this research was provided by a University of Tasmania, Centre of Excellence post-graduate grant and a Society of Economic Geology, Student Research grant (SRG_15-28) from the Newmont Mining Corporation to BJC. We thank Lauren Farmer for providing several samples from the Macraes Mine. Leonid Danyushevsky, Sarah Gilbert and Ivan Belousov are thanked for their assistance with LA-ICP-MS analyses, as is Karsten Goemann and Sandrin Feig for their assistance with SEM work. This study has benefited greatly from discussions with Nigel Cook, Jim Mortensen and Qiuyue Huang. In addition, this manuscript has benefitted significantly from the thoughtful reviews and comments of Colin Paterson, Ryan Taylor, Karen Kelley and Bernd Lehmann. Karen Kelley and Bernd Lehmann are warmly thanked for their editorial handling. Georgia Sawers is also thanked for her invaluable assistance in the field.

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Correspondence to Ben J. Cave.

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Editorial handling: K. Kelley

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Cave, B.J., Pitcairn, I.K., Craw, D. et al. A metamorphic mineral source for tungsten in the turbidite-hosted orogenic gold deposits of the Otago Schist, New Zealand. Miner Deposita 52, 515–537 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-016-0677-5

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  • Orogenic gold
  • Tungsten
  • Scheelite
  • Metal source
  • Rutile
  • Titanite