The White Devil Gold Deposit, Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, Australia
Published:January 01, 1989
Phung T. Nguyen, S. A. Booth, R. A. Both, P. R. James, 1989. "The White Devil Gold Deposit, Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, Australia", The Geology of Gold Deposits: The Perspective in 1988, Reid R. Keays, W. R. H. Ramsay, David I. Groves
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The White Devil gold mine is 33 km northwest of Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory, Australia. Production began in August 1987, and as of 30 June 1988 the measured and indicated resource totaled 343,000 metric tons at 20.6 g/metric ton Au, with a further 73,000 metric tons having been mined to that date. The full extent of the deposit is yet to be defined.
Well-bedded siliciclastic sedimentary rocks of the lower Proterozoic Warramunga Group, which host the mineralization, have undergone two main deformations. The early ductile deformation (D1) was a moderate deformation, which produced upright east-west-trending open-close folds, with a regular plunge of 40° to 50° toward 245°. The late semiductile to brittle deformation (D2) was a progressive deformation, which was associated with at least three closely spaced events, that is, the intrusion of a set of quartz-feldspar porphyry dikes, an early east-west shearing associated with the emplacement of hydrothermal magnetite-rich bodies (ironstones), and a progressive shearing associated with the mineralization. The shearing produced a slickenside-growth fiber lineation (L2), that suggests a vertical-oblique displacement, with the south block eastwardly uplifted and the north block westwardly downthrown.
The magnetite veins commonly have a brecciated texture, and en echelon arrays of sygmoidal tension microfractures are extensively developed. The geometric forms of these microfractures and the internally crystallizing vein fibers indicate formation during a progressive and incremental deformation. Gold-bismuth-copper mineralization was emplaced during the late stage of this progressive deformation, and the ore minerals are mainly concentrated in the tension fractures, replacing quartz and chlorite fibers. Continued progressive shearing was the latest event in the second deformation, when it displaced the porphyries and caused the brecciation of the ironstones.
Gold-bismuth-copper mineralization is mainly confined to the Main Zone and Deeps Zone orebodies, which are associated with magnetite-rich bodies in the hinge region of an anticlinal F1 fold. The mineralogical composition of the ore is relatively simple and consists of gold, chalcopyrite, bismuthinite, bismuth, pyrite, marcasite, and molybdenite associated with magnetite, chlorite, quartz, and hematite with minor carbonate and talc. Ore grades are quite variable over 1-m lengths of drill core, with Bi up to 15 percent, Cu up to 8 percent, and Au up to 1,000 g/metric ton. The primary zone in the Main Zone orebody averages 0.5 to 0.8 percent Cu and 17.6 g/metric ton Au and the Deeps Zone orebody 0.1 percent Cu and 25.2 g/metric ton Au. Gold is generally fine grained and not visible in hand specimens, except in very rich sections of the orebodies.
Textural relationships of the minerals and studies on fluid inclusions in quartz demonstrate that there were two distinct phases of hydrothermal fluid involved in the formation of the deposit. Magnetite was formed from a fluid of relatively high temperature (approximately 350°C) and high salinity (probably CaCl2-NaCl), whereas later gold-bismuth-copper mineralization was formed from a fluid of lower temperature (approx. 300°C) and lower salinity. The origin of the solutions is uncertain, but a preliminary sulfur isotope study suggests a magmatic source for the sulfur. The close association of the ore and magnetite suggests that the magnetite was an important factor in controlling ore deposition.
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The Geology of Gold Deposits: The Perspective in 1988
When the price of gold rose from about $200 (U.S.) an ounce in 1979 to nearly $700 an ounce by the end of the same year, the gold rush of the 1980s was under way. Gold production in the western world rose dramatically; from 1981 to 1986 production increased by 300 to 1,282 metric tons per year. Annual production may reach 1,500 to 1,600 metric tons by 1990 (Woodall, 1988). The major contributors to the increased stream of gold have been Australia, Canada, Brazil, and the United States together with other circum-Pacific countries. The increased price of gold and new methods of extraction have allowed many older deposits to be reopened, but the most important factor has been the high success level of exploration. This success has resulted in large part from the application of new genetic models and from the development of new exploration techniques.
There are hundreds of thousands of reported gold occurrences around the world. The majority are alluvial placers, but large numbers of bedrock occurrences have also been discovered. Most of these occurrences prove to be very small and are relatively unimportant in the overall world production level. Most mined gold has come from a small number of giant deposits, which were found by prospectors. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that the discovery of giant deposits in the future will involve more than the sharp eyes and persistence of the old prospector. The use of sound geologic principles, and exploration programs based on those principles, is what the future holds. An example can be seen in the successful search for gold deposits in the South Pacific. There, exploration models have been based on principles developed in the study of modern geothermal systems. Giant deposits such as Lihir and Porgera have been the reward. Another example is the giant copper-gold-uranium deposit at Olympic Dam, South Australia, discovered beneath 300 m of cover using an exploration program based on models developed by Western Mining Corporation geologists for Zambian copper belt-type deposits.
Gold deposits are widely dispersed throughout many geologic settings and in virtually all kinds of rocks, but they do not seem to have formed at a uniform rate throughout geologic history. On the contrary, two very distinct metallogenic periods have been defined. The first is the Archean era, when most of the great deposits in greenstone belts were formed and the vast Witwatersrand basin deposits in