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Bi/Te control on gold mineralizing processes in the North China Craton: Insights from the Wulong gold deposit

Abstract

The Wulong gold deposit (> 80 t Au) is located at the northeastern margin of the North China Craton (NCC). Gold in the most economically important quartz veins (Stages 2 and 3) is associated with a varied assemblage of Bi and Te minerals. Stage 2 is characterized by, in a temporal order, native gold-native bismuth-maldonite-hedleyite, bismuthinite-Bi-sulfotellurides, electrum-hessite-Bi-Pb-Ag sulfosalts, Bi-Pb sulfosalts, and Bi-Pb-sulfotellurides. All of these minerals except maldonite, electrum, hessite, and Bi-sulfosalts are present in Stage 3 veins, which also contain jonassonite and unnamed minerals with stoichiometry of Bi8Te3 and Bi5Te3. These complex Bi mineral assemblages resulted from changes in Pb, Ag, Te and Bi concentrations in reduced hydrothermal fluids both locally and temporally, from Stage 2 to 3. Texturally, approximately 85% of the gold grains are associated with almost all Bi minerals in each main-stage mineralization. Quartz-vein ores from Stages 2 and 3 have high Bi concentrations (up to 7332 ppm) and show a positive correlation between Bi and Au, with Bi/Au ratios > 10. These textural and geochemical associations, together with the occurrence of numerous droplet-like blebs and small inclusion trails of native bismuth and Bi-tellurides with native gold, maldonite, or jonassonite, suggest that Bi-rich melts may have formed from the hydrothermal fluids of Stages 2 and 3, and acted as an Au scavenger in a complex Bi-Au-Pb-Ag-Te system. Hence, the intimate association of Bi and Au at Wulong is the result of Au enrichment via the liquid bismuth collector mechanism. Unlike Wulong, however, other deposits in the NCC, such as Yangzhaiyu (Xiaoqinling district), Guilaizhuang (Jiaodong district) and Dongping (Jidong district), are characterized by low Bi concentrations, and are much richer in Te than Bi, so these systems could not generate low-melting point Bi-rich polymetallic melts. The low-sulfur Bi-Au-Pb-Ag-Te association at Wulong is consistent with that observed in reduced intrusion-related gold systems elsewhere and suggests that hydrothermal fluids may have been derived from the co-located Early Cretaceous diorite-granite porphyry dyke swarm.

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taken from Tooth et al. (2008), and those of tellurobismuthite from Robie and Hemingway (1995), retrieved from HSC Chemistry 9 (Outotec). The diagram a was drawn using the CHNOSZ package (Dick 2008), and b using Geochemist Workbench (Bethke 2008)

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Xin Yan for assistance with the SEM analysis, as well as Lihui Jia for help and guidance during the EMPA analysis. We also very much thank the Wulong Mining Ltd. for deposit access, and local geologist Jianping Li for providing assistance during fieldwork. We greatly appreciate the detailed and constructive comments and insightful suggestions of three anonymous reviewers, associate editor Steffen Hagemann and editor Georges Beaudoin, who helped us to significantly improve the quality of this manuscript.

Funding

The research was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91414301 and 91962213), and the International Partnership Program of International Cooperation Bureau, Chinese Academy of Sciences (132A11KYSB20190070).

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Feng, H., Shen, P., Zhu, R. et al. Bi/Te control on gold mineralizing processes in the North China Craton: Insights from the Wulong gold deposit. Miner Deposita (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-022-01120-4

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Keywords

  • Bismuth minerals
  • Liquid bismuth collector
  • Chemical fluctuations
  • Wulong gold deposit
  • North China Craton