Paleozoic–early Mesozoic gold deposits of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, northwestern China
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The late Paleozoic–early Mesozoic tectonic evolution of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, northwestern China provided a favorable geological setting for the formation of lode gold deposits along the sutures between a number of the major Eastern Asia cratonic blocks. These sutures are now represented by the Altay Shan, Tian Shan, and Kunlun Shan ranges, with the former two separated by the Junggar basin and the latter two by the immense Tarim basin. In northernmost Xinjiang, final growth of the Altaid orogen, southward from the Angara craton, is now recorded in the remote mid- to late Paleozoic Altay Shan. Accreted Early to Middle Devonian oceanic rock sequences contain typically small, precious-metal bearing Fe–Cu–Zn VMS deposits (e.g. Ashele). Orogenic gold deposits are widespread along the major Irtysh (e.g. Duyolanasayi, Saidi, Taerde, Kabenbulake, Akexike, Shaerbulake) and Tuergen–Hongshanzui (e.g. Hongshanzui) fault systems, as well as in structurally displaced terrane slivers of the western Junggar (e.g. Hatu) and eastern Junggar areas. Geological and geochronological constraints indicate a generally Late Carboniferous to Early Permian episode of gold deposition, which was coeval with the final stages of Altaid magmatism and large-scale, right-lateral translation along older terrane-bounding faults. The Tian Shan, an exceptionally gold-rich mountain range to the west in the Central Asian republics, is only beginning to be recognized for its gold potential in Xinjiang. In this easternmost part to the range, northerly- and southerly-directed subduction/accretion of early to mid-Paleozoic and mid- to late Paleozoic oceanic terranes, respectively, to the Precambrian Yili block (central Tian Shan) was associated with 400 to 250 Ma arc magmatism and Carboniferous through Early Permian gold-forming hydrothermal events. The more significant resulting deposits in the terranes of the southern Tian Shan include the Sawayaerdun orogenic deposit along the Kyrgyzstan border and the epithermal and replacement deposits of the Kanggurtag belt to the east in the Chol Tagh range. Gold deposits of approximately the same age in the Yili block include the Axi hot springs/epithermal deposit near the Kazakhstan border and a series of small orogenic gold deposits south of Urumqi (e.g. Wangfeng). Gold-rich porphyry copper deposits (e.g. Tuwu) define important new exploration targets in the northern Tian Shan of Xinjiang. The northern foothills of the Kunlun Shan of southern Xinjiang host scattered, small placer gold deposits. Sources for the gold have not been identified, but are hypothesized to be orogenic gold veins beneath the icefields to the south. They are predicted to have formed in the Tianshuihai terrane during its early Mesozoic accretion to the amalgamated Tarim–Qaidam–Kunlun cratonic block.
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