Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 58, Issue 9, pp 1523–1537 | Cite as

Decratonic gold deposits

  • RiXiang ZhuEmail author
  • HongRui Fan
  • JianWei Li
  • QingRen Meng
  • ShengRong Li
  • QingDong Zeng
Research Paper


The North China craton (NCC) hosts numerous gold deposits and is known as the most gold-productive region of China. The gold deposits were mostly formed within a few million years in the Early Cretaceous (130-120 Ma), coeval with widespread occurrences of bimodal magmatism, rift basins and metamorphic core complexes that marked the peak of lithospheric thinning and destruction of the NCC. Stable isotope data and geological evidence indicate that ore-forming fluids and other components were largely exsolved from cooling magma and/or derived from mantle degassing during the period of lithospheric extension. Gold mineralization in the NCC contrasts strikingly with that of other cratons where gold ore-forming fluids were sourced mostly from metamorphic devolatization in compressional or transpressional regimes. In this paper, we present a summary and discussion on time-space distribution and ore genesis of gold deposits in the NCC in the context of the timing, spatial variation, and decratonic processes. Compared with orogenic gold deposits in other cratonic blocks, the Early Cretaceous gold deposits in the NCC are quite distinct in that they were deposited from magma-derived fluids under extensional settings and associated closely with destruction of cratonic lithosphere. We argue that Early Cretaceous gold deposits in the NCC cannot be classified as orogenic gold deposits as previously suggested, rather, they are a new type of gold deposits, termed as “decratonic gold deposits” in this study. The westward subduction of the paleo-West Pacific plate (the Izanagi plate) beneath the eastern China continent gave rise to an optimal tectonic setting for large-scale gold mineralization in the Early Cretaceous. Dehydration of the subducted and stagnant slab in the mantle transition zone led to continuous hydration and considerable metasomatism of the mantle wedge beneath the NCC. As a consequence, the refractory mantle became oxidized and highly enriched in large ion lithophile elements and chalcophile elements (e.g., Cu, Au, Ag and Te). Partial melting of such a mantle would have produced voluminous hydrous, Au- and S-bearing basaltic magma, which, together with crust-derived melts induced by underplating of basaltic magma, served as an important source for ore-forming fluids. It is suggested that the Eocene Carlin-type gold deposits in Nevada, occurring geologically in the deformed western margin of the North America craton, are comparable with the Early Cretaceous gold deposits of the NCC because they share similar tectonic settings and auriferous fluids. The NCC gold deposits are characterized by gold-bearing quartz veins in the Archean amphibolite facies rocks, whereas the Nevada gold deposits are featured by fine-grained sulfide dissemination in Paleozoic marine sedimentary rocks. Their main differences in gold mineralization are the different host rocks, ore-controlling structures, and ore-forming depth. The similar tectonic setting and ore-forming fluid source, however, indicate that the Carlin-type gold deposits in Nevada are actually analogous to decratonic gold deposits in the NCC. Gold deposits in both the NCC and Nevada were formed in a relatively short time interval (<10 Myr) and become progressively younger toward the subduction zone. Younging of gold mineralization toward subduction zone might have been attributed to retreat of subduction zone and rollback of subducted slab. According to the ages of gold deposits on inland and marginal zones, the retreat rates of the Izanagi plate in the western Pacific in the Early Cretaceous and the Farallon plate of the eastern Pacific in the Eocene are estimated at 8.8 cm/yr and 3.3 cm/yr, respectively.


Early Cretaceous craton destruction decratonic gold deposit ore deposit model 


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • RiXiang Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  • HongRui Fan
    • 1
  • JianWei Li
    • 2
  • QingRen Meng
    • 1
  • ShengRong Li
    • 3
  • QingDong Zeng
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesChina University of GeosciencesBeijingChina

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