Ash, Chris and Alldrick, Dani (1996): Au-quartz Veins, in Selected British Columbia Mineral Deposit Profiles, Volume 2 - Metallic Deposits, Lefebure, D.V. and Hõy, T., Editors, British Columbia Ministry of Employment and Investment, Open File 1996-13, pages 53-56.
SYNONYMS: Mother Lode veins, greenstone gold, Archean lode gold, mesothermal gold-quartz veins, shear-hosted lode gold, low-sulphide gold-quartz veins, lode gold.
COMMODITIES (BYPRODUCTS): Au (Ag, Cu, Sb).
EXAMPLES (British Columbia (MINFILE #) - Canada/ International):
: Bralorne-Pioneer (092JNE001
), Erickson (104P 029
), Taurus (104P 012
), Polaris-Taku (104K 003
), Mosquito Creek (093H 010
), Cariboo Gold Quartz (093H 019
), Midnight (082FSW119
); Carson Hill, Jackson-Plymouth, Mother Lode district; Empire Star and Idaho-Maryland, Grass Valley district (California, USA); Alaska-Juneau, Jualin, Kensington (Alaska, USA), Ural Mountains (Russia).
Archean: Hollinger, Dome, McIntyre and Pamour, Timmins camp; Lake Shore, Kirkland Lake camp; Campbell, Madsen, Red Lake camp; Kerr-Addison, Larder Lake camp (Ontario, Canada), Lamaque and Sigma, Val d’Or camp (Quebec, Canada); Granny Smith, Kalgoorlie and Golden Mile ( Western Australia); Kolar (Karnataka, India), Blanket-Vubachikwe (Zimbabwe, Africa).
CAPSULE DESCRIPTION: Gold-bearing quartz veins and veinlets with minor sulphides crosscut a wide variety of hostrocks and are localized along major regional faults and related splays. The wallrock is typically altered to silica, pyrite and muscovite within a broader carbonate alteration halo.
Phanerozoic: Contained in moderate to gently dipping fault/suture zones related to continental margin collisional tectonism. Suture zones are major crustal breaks which are characterized by dismembered ophiolitic remnants between diverse assemblages of island arcs, subduction complexes and continental-margin clastic wedges.
Archean: Major transcrustal structural breaks within stable cratonic terranes. May represent remnant terrane collisional boundaries.
DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENT / GEOLOGICAL SETTING: Veins form within fault and joint systems produced by regional compression or transpression (terrane collision), including major listric reverse faults, second and third-order splays. Gold is deposited at crustal levels within and near the brittle-ductile transition zone at depths of 6-12 km, pressures between 1 to 3 kilobars and temperatures from 200o to 400 oC. Deposits may have a vertical extent of up to 2 km, and lack pronounced zoning.
AGE OF MINERALIZATION: Mineralization is post-peak metamorphism (i.e. late syncollisional) with gold-quartz veins particularly abundant in the Late Archean and Mesozoic.
Phanerozoic: In the North America Cordillera gold veins are post-Middle Jurassic and appear to form immediately after accretion of oceanic terranes to the continental margin. In British Columbia deposits are mainly Middle Jurassic (~ 165-170 Ma) and Late Cretaceous (~ 95 Ma). In the Mother Lode belt they are Middle Jurassic (~ 150 Ma) and those along the Juneau belt in Alaska are of Early Tertiary (~56-55 Ma).
Archean: Ages of mineralization for Archean deposits are well constrained for both the Superior Province, Canadian Shield (~ 2.68 to 2.67 Ga) and the Yilgarn Province, Western Australia (~ 2.64 to 2.63 Ga).
HOST/ASSOCIATED ROCK TYPES: Lithologically highly varied, usually of greenschist metamorphic grade, ranging from virtually undeformed to totally schistose.
Phanerozoic: Mafic volcanics, serpentinite, peridotite, dunite, gabbro, diorite, trondhjemite/plagiogranites, graywacke, argillite, chert, shale, limestone and quartzite, felsic and intermediate intrusions.
Archean: Granite-greenstone belts - mafic, ultramafic (komaitiitic) and felsic volcanics, intermediate and felsic intrusive rocks, graywacke and shale.
DEPOSIT FORM: Tabular fissure veins in more competent host lithologies, veinlets and stringers forming stockworks in less competent lithologies. Typically occur as a system of en echelon veins on all scales. Lower grade bulk-tonnage styles of mineralization may develop in areas marginal to veins with gold associated with disseminated sulphides. May also be related to broad areas of fracturing with gold and sulphides associated with quartz veinlet networks.
TEXTURE/STRUCTURE: Veins usually have sharp contacts with wallrocks and exhibit a variety of textures, including massive, ribboned or banded and stockworks with anastamosing gashes and dilations. Textures may be modified or destroyed by subsequent deformation.
ORE MINERALOGY (Principal and subordinate): Native gold, pyrite, arsenopyrite, galena, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite, tellurides, scheelite, bismuth, cosalite, tetrahedrite, stibnite, molybdenite, gersdorffite (NiAsS), bismuthimite (Bi2S2), tetradymite (Bi2Te2S).
GANGUE MINERALOGY (Principal and subordinate): Quartz, carbonates (ferroan-dolomite, ankerite ferroan-magnesite, calcite, siderite), albite, mariposite (fuchsite), sericite, muscovite, chlorite, tourmaline, graphite.
ALTERATION MINERALOGY: Silicification, pyritization and potassium metasomatism generally occur adjacent to veins (usually within a metre) within broader zones of carbonate alteration, with or without ferroan dolomite veinlets, extending up to tens of metres from the veins. Type of carbonate alteration reflects the ferromagnesian content of the primary host lithology; ultramafics rocks - talc, Fe-magnesite; mafic volcanic rocks - ankerite, chlorite; sediments - graphite and pyrite; felsic to intermediate intrusions - sericite, albite, calcite, siderite, pyrite. Quartz-carbonate altered rock (listwanite) and pyrite are often the most prominent alteration minerals in the wallrock. Fuchsite, sericite, tourmaline and scheelite are common where veins are associated with felsic to intermediate intrusions.
WEATHERING: Distinctive orange-brown limonite due to the oxidation of Fe-Mg carbonates cut by white veins and veinlets of quartz and ferroan dolomite. Distinctive green Cr-mica may also be present. Abundant quartz float in overburden.
ORE CONTROLS: Gold-quartz veins are found within zones of intense and pervasive carbonate alteration along second order or later faults marginal to transcrustal breaks. They are commonly closely associated with, late syncollisional, structurally controlled intermediate to felsic magmatism. Gold veins are more commonly economic where hosted by relatively large, competent units, such as intrusions or blocks of obducted oceanic crust. Veins are usually at a high angle to the primary collisional fault zone.
Phanerozoic: Secondary structures at a high angle to relatively flat-lying to moderately dipping collisional suture zones.
Archean: Steep, transcrustal breaks; best deposits overall are in areas of greenstone.
ASSOCIATED DEPOSIT TYPES: Gold placers (C01, C02), sulphide manto Au (J04), silica veins (I07); iron formation Au (I04) in the Archean.
GENETIC MODEL: Gold quartz veins form in lithologically heterogeneous, deep transcrustal fault zones that develop in response to terrane collision. These faults act as conduits for CO2-H2O-rich (5-30 mol% CO2 ), low salinity (<3 wt% NaCl) aqueous fluids, with high Au, Ag, As, (±Sb, Te, W, Mo) and low Cu, Pb, Zn metal contents. These fluids are believed to be tectonically or seismically driven by a cycle of pressure build-up that is released by failure and pressure reduction followed by sealing and repetition of the process ( Sibson et al., 1988). Gold is deposited at crustal levels within and near the brittle- ductile transition zone with deposition caused by sulphidation (the loss of H2S due to pyrite deposition) primarily as a result of fluid-wallrock reactions, other significant factors may involve phase separation and fluid pressure reduction. The origin of the mineralizing fluids remains controversial, with metamorphic, magmatic and mantle sources being suggested as possible candidates. Within an environment of tectonic crustal thickening in response to terrane collision, metamorphic devolitization or partial melting (anatexis) of either the lower crust or subducted slab may generate such fluids.
COMMENTS: These deposits may be a difficult deposit to evaluate due to "nugget effect", hence the adage, “Drill for structure, drift for grade”. These veins have also been mined in British Columbia as a source of silica for smelter flux.
GEOCHEMICAL SIGNATURE: Elevated values of Au, Ag, As, Sb, K, Li, Bi, W, Te and B ± (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn and Hg) in rock and soil, Au in stream sediments.
GEOPHYSICAL SIGNATURE: Faults indicated by linear magnetic anomalies. Areas of alteration indicated by negative magnetic anomalies due to destruction of magnetite as a result of carbonate alteration.
OTHER EXPLORATION GUIDES: Placer gold or elevated gold in stream sediment samples is an excellent regional and property-scale guide to gold-quartz veins. Investigate broad 'deformation envelopes' adjacent to regional listric faults where associated with carbonate alteration. Alteration and structural analysis can be used to delineate prospective ground. Within carbonate alteration zones, gold is typically only in areas containing quartz, with or without sulphides. Serpentinite bodies, if present, can be used to delineate favourable regional structures. Largest concentrations of free gold are commonly at, or near, the intersection of quartz veins with serpentinized and carbonate-altered ultramafic rocks.
TYPICAL GRADE AND TONNAGE: Individual deposits average 30 000 t with grades of 16 g/t Au and 2.5 g/t Ag (Berger, 1986) and may be as large as 40 Mt. Many major producers in the Canadian Shield range from 1 to 6 Mt at grades of 7 g/t Au (Thorpe and Franklin, 1984). The largest gold-quartz vein deposit in British Columbia is the Bralorne-Pioneer which produced in excess of 117 800 kilograms of Au from ore with an average grade of 9.3 g/t.
ECONOMIC LIMITATIONS: These veins are usually less than 2m wide and therefore, only amenable to underground mining.
IMPORTANCE: These deposits are a major source of the world’s gold production and account for approximately a quarter of Canada’s output. They are the most prolific gold source after the ores of the Witwatersrand basin.
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